Back in the Eddie Sutton heyday, an OSU basketball ticket was gold. Great teams. Miniature arena. Fabulous atmosphere. You got a chance to go see Sutton’s Cowboys, you didn’t let the tickets lie dormant on the countertop.
That was then. Now, OSU is in the same pickle much of college basketball finds itself. Difficult to get people in the doors for all but the biggest games.
I wrote about the OSU football ticket success story for the Wednesday Oklahoman. You can read that column here. But basketball, even in the wake of Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash all postponing pro careers for a year, remains a tough challenge in Stillwater.
“Ten, 15 years ago, if you got two tickets to a game here at Gallagher-Iba, you made sure your tickets were used,” said OSU ticket manager Craig Bauman. “You didn’t know if you’d get the chance to do that again.”
Now, with Gallagher-Iba more than doubled in size, from 6,381 to 13,611, and the Cowboys not always playing at the same level as Sutton’s great teams, season-ticket holders will cherry pick. A game against Sam Houston State at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday doesn’t have quite the magnetic pull it once did.
My theory: Lots of OSU fans have made the trade from basketball to football. Some have only so much discretionary income. They heard the message that football is important, that football is paramount, and made the jump. With rousing success, both on the field and at the gate.
Many fans have only so much time and/or money.
But there are other theories. Team performance is a factor. The national trend, particularly with students, is declining attendance.
OSU is taking steps to re-pack Gallagher-Iba. Starting with the students.
“This is challenging,” OSU athletic director Mike Holder said. “There’s so much more for a student to do. Lot of competition for their time and energy.”
So OSU has established a new student ticket policy. In the old days, students were on an A/B rotation. They basically got in to half the games with their student ticket. Then their ticket got them into all the games. Then their ticket became a combo football/basketball ticket.
Now, an OSU student ticket to football gets a student into every athletic event, including basketball, and the price has been reduced from $330 to $240. “We’re hoping to sell more than 12,000,” Holder said, “and give us more of a pool to draw from for basketball. Students are critical for both sports, but absolutely essential for basketball.”
And it doesn’t hurt Smart and Co. return for another run at hoops glory.
“We saw a spike the day of the press conference,” announcing the return of Smart, Brown and Nash, Bauman said, “and it really hasn’t let off since. We’re hoping there’s a lot of excitement around the basketball programs.”