In 2003, an anonymous donor paid for free student tickets for the entire bleacher section of Crisler Arena.
More than 1,907 students ordered season tickets for men’s basketball that year. The following season, the last year of the anonymous donor, 2,088 ordered tickets.
This year, the Athletic Department has sold about 411 of the 629 seats available for student season-ticket holders. Last year, 632 students purchased season tickets.
“I’ve been surprised so far with how slow they’ve been,” said Craig Johnson, Business school senior and co-president of the Maize Rage. “One way or another, I think we’ll get there. But I’m not sure how easy it’ll be.”
Although the tickets are not free, the price was reduced from $125 last season to $99 this year.
“We thought this year was a big year to help student engagement and to help students from a financial standpoint,” said Marty Bodnar, associate athletic director for ticketing services. “I don’t envision the $99 price to cause a thousand students to all of a sudden go order them.”
The priority deadline has already passed, but students will be able to purchase tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis until Oct. 31.
“If students buy now, they’re going to get into the bleachers,” Bodnar said.
If all 520 bleacher seats are filled, there will be an overflow section with room for 90 students in section 19.
The students in the overflow section will sit behind the pep band, which is moving from the floor into the seats and increasing in size from 35 to 75 members. The move was championed by Michigan coach John Beilein to help make a louder, more frenzied environment behind the second-half basket of the visiting team.
Johnson said the environment won’t be exciting at all if students don’t buy tickets.
Some students said the best way to draw fans back to Crisler Arena would be to once again provide free student tickets.
“It’s no secret that we would’ve liked to have seen the price lower,” Johnson said. “Even though we didn’t go all the way down to free, a deeper discount would’ve had a substantial effect on student ticket sales.”
Members of the Maize Rage met with Beilein last spring to discuss the idea of free student tickets. Bodnar said the idea was considered within the Athletic Department but wasn’t a viable long-term option.
With the demand for tickets down, the Athletic Department is marketing them more aggressively. In a new promotion, if students buy basketball tickets, they are entered into a drawing to win one of six prizes — four tickets to the Ohio State football game this year, four tickets to the Ohio State football game next year, free books next semester, two season tickets to football games next season, $500 worth of Adidas gear and a $100 gift card to Outback Steakhouse.
But no matter what the promotions the Athletic Department tries, ticket sales are probably low because last season the Wolverines went 10-22.
Many fans are hopeful that this season will be better, now that the players have a year of experience in the new system and Beilein is working with some of his own recruits.
“In that first year, there are always some growing pains,” Johnson said. “But the product on the court is going to get better. At the end of the day, that is the biggest factor in drawing students in.”