Editorial | Wanted: attendance
This Saturday’s The Line is another reminder that Penn Athletics needs to innovate to attract students to sporting events
October 16, 2013, 3:45 pm · Updated October 16, 2013, 10:13 pm·
Penn Athletics is getting desperate.
From giving away free pizza and rally towels at this Friday’s volleyball game to packaging beer, food, T-shirts and Bill Cosby with football and basketball — all for a $10 Homecoming ticket — they’re throwing anything they can at students to increase home game attendance.
Well, almost everything.
For some reason, Penn Athletics still insists on charging students for basketball tickets, despite the fact that they have trouble coming close to filling the student section for most games.
The staunchest reminder of that fact will come this Saturday with The Line.
The Line used to be a Penn Athletics-hosted event during which students slept over at the Palestra to buy season tickets in the morning.
It used to attract hundreds of students, but in more recent years, The Line has been a misnomer. Two years ago, you could easily count the number of students who stayed the night.
Because of this, Penn Athletics turned the decades-old tradition over to The Red and Blue Crew last year. This weekend, The Line will simply be an event where students can show up during the day, get pizza and buy season tickets for a discounted rate.
If even a 40-plus-year-old Penn tradition can’t entice students to show some Penn pride, it begs the question of why Penn Athletics is so adamant about charging students to see basketball games, especially when students can attend any other Penn sporting event for free.
It doesn’t seem like a money issue — otherwise, why would Penn Athletics spend so much to attract students to games that are free? Indeed, Penn Athletics seems to prioritize getting students to show up over revenue from student ticket purchases.
And while one could make the argument that the Palestra can come close to filling up when Penn hosts Princeton, that’s only one exception to a fairly rigid rule.
Penn Athletics seems to have this idea that since basketball has been Penn’s pre-eminent sport and is in one of the most historic arenas, they should charge students.
That may be true, but when it comes to basketball, Penn Athletics is missing one thing: Many students apparently just don’t care.
To an avid sports fan, yes, the Palestra is hallowed ground. One editor found out by polling incoming freshmen that most students haven’t even heard of it before getting here.
Nowadays, basketball games, like all Penn sports games, are just events competing with social events, other student group performances and school work. That’s a competition for students’ time that sports teams — especially a basketball team coming off a 9-22 season — just aren’t winning.
This might in part be a fault of the student body lacking Penn pride. However, it’s the current trend — and Penn Athletics needs to find ways to attract students to events within the confines of that reality.
If we were Penn Athletics, we’d stop charging for all games. But that alone wouldn’t be enough.
Penn Athletics is going in the right direction with bundling, but it needs to do so more often. If we had to make a prediction, a substantial number of students will show up to Homecoming for the beer and Bill Cosby. Not everyone cares about the football or basketball teams, but many do care about booze and celebrities.
Obviously, Penn Athletics can’t get a Bill Cosby to come to every sporting event. But they can use that idea of creating a broader appeal to attract more students to more games.
For example, the annual January tradition of a Panhellenic Council tug-of-war during a basketball game halftime attracts a lot of students. A lot of people, regardless of their interest in basketball, want to see their friends duking it out on the court, and many sororities and fraternities make their members attend.
Why doesn’t Penn Athletics try to do more events like these? Instead of having halftime shows which feature unknown performers or relay races that no student cares about, why not try to get student groups to perform?
The fact that Penn Athletics seems to have an increasing sense of urgency to attract students is a good thing. If they really want to succeed, they have to think bigger more often.