When the Michigan men’s basketball program announced a complete overhaul of its student-ticket policy prior to the 2013-14 season, it was met with massive outrage from a student fanbase that felt it had been deliberately misled.
More than a year later, the dust has settled and the policies have been vindicated, and Michigan’s oft-discussed “claim” system is back for another run.
After overselling the student section in 2013-14 — the Athletic Department sold 3,600 tickets for a 3,000-seat student section — a policy was instituted forcing students to claim the right to tickets in six subdivisions of home games.
Despite the opposition, the policy worked spectacularly. The number of student tickets claimed never exceeded availability, and the Athletic Department was left with ample time to sell unused seats, ensuring a mostly full student section throughout the season at Crisler Center.
“We really didn’t ask for too much to be changed,” said Engineering junior Christian Tallarico, president of the Maize Rage, Michigan’s student cheering section for men’s basketball games. “In my opinion, everything that changed from last year to this year was positive.”
This season, the number of periods in which student season-ticket holders are asked to claim games they wish to attend has been reduced to three. And unlike last season, penalties for unused claimed tickets only apply to the third claim period, as opposed to each period successively.
Lenience for missed claims has also increased. Students will be allotted three chances to return claimed tickets, as long as the return is made at least 24 hours prior to tipoff.
Ticket sales — after the Athletic Department announced last spring the price would remain $200 — dropped to 3,250, a 350-person decrease from last season.
“I don’t think anybody would ever complain about prices going down,” Tallarico said. “But I’m very satisfied with the product, so I’m willing to pay $200 for it.”
The student section’s size has stayed at 3,000 seats for all games that take place while class is in session. For games during academic breaks, the student section will shrink to 403 seats, the size of the courtside bleacher section on the west side of the arena.
There’s one exception: In response to higher-than-expected demand last season for games that took place during Spring Break, Michigan has set aside 1,000 tickets for the March 3 contest against Rutgers.
Despite general satisfaction with the policy tweaks, the Maize Rage was disappointed on one last front. After advocating for increased seating in Crisler Center’s lower bowl, which currently holds less than a quarter of student-section seats, the seating layout went unchanged.
“We brought it up,” Tallarico said. “But we don’t expect much. We understand that Crisler just got renovated and there are a lot of donors that paid for those good seats. We’re very happy with the atmosphere, and we’re making the most of it as it is, but we wouldn’t say no to more seats.”
The Athletic Department’s basketball ticket policy from last year, while initially unpopular, might have had only a single flaw: communication, or lack thereof.
Michigan’s marketing department was faced with the difficult offseason decision in 2013 to turn away prospective freshman ticket-buyers or oversell the student section.
The department made sure, once again, to keep Maize Rage representatives at least somewhat in the loop the second time around.
“They came up with what they thought the best idea was,” Tallarico said. “Then we met with them probably about two or three weeks before (the updated policy) was announced.
“They ran it by us and (asked), ‘Anything you liked, disliked about this, what would you change?’ ”
The meetings took place with Maize Rage representatives and members of the Athletic Department marketing staff, including Chief Marketing Officer Hunter Lochmann, who had a principal role in dealing with the aftermath of last year’s ticket-announcement fiasco.
The first student-claim period begins this Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 8:30 a.m., and includes an exhibition and seven non-conference matchups, most notably a Dec. 2 clash with No. 24 Syracuse.