I am one of many students this year who did not buy Michigan basketball tickets. Despite encouragement from coach John Beilein and the Athletic Department, I felt that Michigan basketball was not for me. Every year when tickets go on sale, I debate buying them. But not being an avid basketball fan, I need a little extra encouragement to attend basketball games. That encouragement just isn’t there when Crisler Arena is dull and the team’s performance, at least last year, is less than stellar.

I’m not the only one who opted out of buying season tickets this year. Michigan basketball season ticket sales have been extremely low. As of Nov. 12, only 480 season tickets had been sold for this season. That’s roughly 120 less than what sold last year. And if you don’t believe the numbers, you can check Crisler Arena out yourself, where the lack of interest is visible when looking at the empty bleacher seats.

That’s not to say the Athletic Department isn’t trying to fill seats. It has tried e-mailing students and advertising at football games to get more students to buy tickets, but nothing is working. But lowering the price of basketball tickets to only $99 isn’t enough to get me to pick up my credit card.

Now, we’ve come to a last resort. Earlier in the year, some members of the student group Maize Rage went to Beilein to discuss the possibility of having free student tickets this year. Free tickets had been offered to the student body in the past, so why not now? At first, the Athletic Department dismissed the idea, stating that it didn’t think free tickets are a feasible long-run strategy. This is a shame, because there’s no short-term interest in the team, and that won’t change until the energy surrounding this sport rises. The Athletic Department finally realized the error in its ways, and met Maize Rage halfway by offering some free games this season. The only catch: A lot of these games are ones that most students don’t want to attend.

If the Athletic Department wants to salvage interest in Michigan basketball, it has to do something bold, something visionary, something that will get people back in Crisler Arena. It has to offer free tickets to students for every game and then build a lively atmosphere once students are there.

Offering free tickets to all of the games will bring the Athletic Department closer to achieving the culture that will save Michigan basketball. Though tickets are probably not selling partly because last year’s team performed poorly; hopefully, now that the players are a year older and more experienced, this won’t be the case. And, since the basketball team is off to a great start, it does look as though the team might be much improved this year. Winning games will help improve Michigan basketball’s culture, and that is the most important thing.

Think of it this way: Culture is what maintains student interest in the hockey and football teams. Students not only buy tickets to these games year after year, but they also show up on game day as well. No matter how the team is performing, students are clad in Michigan gear and ready to cheer as loud as they possibly can. Attendance at every Michigan football game this season has been over 100,000, despite the fact that the team now has the most losses in Michigan football history. Michigan hockey is well known for its student-led chants and high spirits, no matter how the team performs. The enthusiasm and culture that surround these two sports is more important than their win/loss records.

Michigan basketball no longer has that culture. Students aren’t buying tickets, not because of how expensive they are or because of how poorly the team performed last season, but because it doesn’t have a game-day draw anymore. We simply aren’t getting excited about basketball games.

If the Athletic Department wants to get students going to Michigan basketball games, it will have to draw them in. A good basketball culture will breed enthusiasm among its supporters by keeping them involved in the sport. Students need to feel more connected to Michigan basketball. This connection doesn’t hinge on how well the team does, it hinges on what kind of atmosphere there is at the game once students get there.

Elise Baun is an LSA senior.

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