When a family emergency kept MU senior Nick Ziegler commuting between Columbia and his hometown of Kansas City last month, the last thing on his mind was the coming MU men’s basketball game against Kansas.
After his family issues were resolved, Ziegler returned to Columbia on Feb. 20 and went to the Hearnes Center to pick up a ticket to the KU game as part of the All Sports Pass he bought at the beginning of the school year. But Ziegler’s student ticket, along with 2,099 others, had been sold to the general public.
“Because I didn’t pick my ticket up, they assumed I didn’t want to go and they sold my ticket to a nonstudent,” Ziegler said.
Of 6,400 students holding All Sports Passes, 3,900 picked up tickets between Feb. 9 and Feb. 13, the designated week for KU ticket pick-up. That time period was extended to Feb. 18, and what tickets remained were sold to the general public the next morning. The tickets sold in about 45 minutes at $20 each, said Brandon Hillman, assistant director of ticket operations.
“Unfortunately there wasn’t as much interest from the students as we had planned for,” said Chad Moller, the director of Mizzou athletics media relations. “We want to try to sell the place out — if we know that there are going to be empty seats, then we want to offer those to whoever might want to come see the game.”
Snyder speaks out
Controversy about the distribution of student tickets for this Sunday’s KU game — the last in the Hearnes Center — has focused new attention on when and how students get their basketball tickets. Head coach Quin Snyder raised the issue Thursday on his weekly radio show in a discussion of the importance of home-court advantage and the significant role students play in energizing his players.
“Home court has been a big thing in our league,” Snyder said. “Speaking of which, I don’t know what’s going on with our student ticket policy.”
Saying he was “biting off more than I can chew,” Snyder told Tiger Talk host Mike Kelly that he’s received numerous e-mails about the student ticket policy. He also said he knows of “several situations” in which it has been difficult for students to get tickets to basketball games.
“I would like to say to our students that I just think that they’ve done an unbelievable job for us this year,” Snyder said. “And if there’s anything that’s going on that’s making it harder for them rather than easier to come to games, it’s something we need to look at and that we need to change.”
MU has already designated 3,000 seats in the new arena’s lower level for students, compared with 1,926 student seats spread throughout levels A, B and C in the Hearnes Center.
“When the arena was first being designed, the major donors and Coach Snyder wanted to make sure students had an opportunity to impact the game,” Senior Associate Athletics Director Mario Moccia said.
The future's uncertain
While more students will be closer to the court, the decision on how to allot tickets for those seats remains undecided. Moccia said the athletic department will re-evaluate all of its ticketing practices before next season.
The current student ticket distribution policy allowed 4,500 student tickets for each home basketball game with the exception of 6,000 student tickets available for the KU game. The policy involved five weeklong distribution periods throughout the basketball season in which students could pick up groupings of tickets for a range of one to five games. The dates for ticket distribution were provided upon purchase of an All Sports Pass, and reminders are sent out periodically through university mass e-mails.
As long as a student was one of the first 4,500 to pick up a ticket, under the guidelines it didn’t matter when it was picked up. If the supply of student tickets happened to be exhausted, a student could purchase a general admission ticket — if any were available.
Ziegler’s experience, however, falls under a short disclaimer listed with guidelines that are handed out with All Sports Passes. The disclaimer reads: “Please note that after the original student distribution periods, tickets will also go on sale to the public until the game is sold out.”
While Ziegler was aware of the restricted distribution periods and the limited number of tickets available for students, he said the potential for resale of his ticket was not made clear.
“I expected them to have my ticket,” he said.
Ziegler said he based this assumption on his experiences picking up tickets earlier in the season. For many other games, students had been able to pick up a ticket until game time.
“So far, there has not been a game this year that 4,500 tickets have been picked up by the students,” Moccia said.
The current student ticket distribution policy was developed before the 2002-03 basketball season. Moccia said the policy, based on KU’s procedures, was approved by MU’s athletic department and a student committee that included members of the Missouri Students Association and the Student Athletic Board.
In previous basketball seasons, a lottery system was used for student ticket distribution. Under this system, students holding All Sports Passes were randomly awarded a seating section for the entire season. Season tickets for the students’ assigned section were then available for pickup in Brady Commons before the start of the season.
“In that situation, you could have been a huge basketball fan as a senior and get a bad lottery draw but there could be a freshman that you think hasn’t paid his dues but he gets a good lottery draw,” Moccia said.
Moller said the current system allows the most avid fans to get the best seats because everyone has the same opportunity to pick up tickets throughout the season. He cited an increase in student attendance for the 2003-04 season as an indication that the new system has been successful.
“We haven’t had much negative feedback, so hopefully most people are pleased with the new system,” Moller said
Complaints such as Ziegler’s, however, have not reached Moller or Moccia — individuals who will have key roles in determining next year’s distribution policy.
“I was told to call 1-800-CAT-PAWS to address my complaints to a ticket office manager,” Ziegler said. “But when I called three minutes later, I was told the manager was in a meeting but was promised that he would return my e-mail or phone call that day.”
Ziegler said that he never heard back and that subsequent inquiries to Marty Finn, director of ticket operations, went unanswered. Missourian calls to Finn were not returned.
Ziegler would like to tell someone about the changes he’d like to see before the 2004-05 season.
“A lot of people buy their All Sports Pass but only want to go to the football games,” Ziegler said. “There should be a way for students to e-mail the ticket office and let them know whether they want their tickets or not. That way, if you don’t e-mail them, they can sell your tickets.”
Ziegler also suggests that tickets should be distributed all at one time at the start of the basketball season, possibly by mail. If changes are not made to the distribution policy, he said he does not plan on purchasing an All Sports Pass again.
In addition to taking student comments into consideration, Moccia said the athletics department will ask Hearnes Center employees, including ushers and ticket-takers, how well they think the current system works. The athletic department will also solicit opinions from a student committee similar to the committee that was involved in creating the current ticket distribution policy.
Moccia said the best way for students like Ziegler to express their concerns for next year’s student ticket distribution policy is to e-mail Moller at MollerC@missouri.edu.