Sunday, December 23, 2001

DAUGHERTY: UC basketball


School puts squeeze on loyal fans

By Paul Daugherty
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Remember when the noise inside the Shoemaker Center curled the walls? Bob Huggins removed his sportcoat and the gym sounded like Turn 2 at Daytona. It was a few years ago.

        Now, crowds are down. The standard thirteen-one-seventy-six hasn't been to a UC basketball game yet. Those who come leave their lungs at home. “What was once a tough place to play has become a cocktail party for the rich and famous,” a fan told me this week.

map
        We'll call the fan Bob, because that is, in fact, his name. He wanted to leave the rest out, because he has good friends who are well-heeled members of UCATS, the fund-raising arm of UC's athletic department.

        Bob laments the gentrification of the crowds at UC basketball games. He blames it on rising ticket costs; specifically, the money UCATS wants just for the right to buy season tickets.

        Bob is not alone. In the past few years, several UC season-ticket holders have expressed to me the same concern. Huggins has wondered publicly about the attendance dip. Consistent excellence deserves consistent support, he said. So where are the fans?

        At the local BW-3's, drinking beer and watching the big screen.

        Loyalty ransomed

        Bob has had season tickets to UC basketball games since 1984. This year, he had to donate another $750 to UCATS, on top of the $750 he paid last year, to avoid being banished to the bleachers. “To keep the backs on my seats,” he said. He wasn't happy about it.

        “I don't have a problem with them trying to raise money,” Bob said. “But loyalty should have some value. When you tell the UCATS people that, their response is always, "If you don't like the direction we're heading, there are dozens of people behind you who will take your tickets.' ”

        What is happening at UC isn't unique. The cost of running college programs and paying pro salaries has pushed the average fan away from the arena and into the sports bar. Wait until Great American Ball Park opens. Your wallet will be in full cardiac arrest. If anything, UC is late arriving at the trend.

        Basketball means bucks

        The Bearcats make basketball season-ticketholders buy football season tickets. They have tied basketball tickets to UCATS membership. Shoemaker Center has two levels. No one who contributes less than $1,800 a year sits in the lower level. No one giving less than $3,000 sits in the middle sections of the lower level.

        If you don't pay up, you are moved up, or out. Unlike the Bengals' personal seat licenses, UCATS membership requires an annual payment, and you do not own the rights to your seat. UC does this “to provide the kinds of programs we all want to watch,” said Bill Mulvihill, a senior associate athletic director. The money has to come from somewhere. Basketball floats the athletic boat in Clifton.

        The result is diehard UC fans have left the building, replaced by wealthier, less vocal patrons. It's no longer a guys' night out, not when the guys have to fork over $3,000 for the right to buy good seats.

        In 1963, when the Beatles played a concert for the queen of England, John Lennon asked for audience participation. “The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands,” Lennon said. “The rest of you, just rattle your jewelry.” They're rattling jewelry now at the Shoe.

        Contact Paul Daugherty at 768-8454; fax: 768-8550; e-mail: pdaugherty@enquirer.com. Cincinnati.Com keyword: Daugherty.

       



Bearcats Stories
UC pounds Purdue 79-62
- DAUGHERTY: UC basketball
UC notebook: Worldwide might be limited next year
Women: Cincinnati 94, Butler 66

Backup QBs short on experience
Desperate Ravens meet slumping Bengals in rematch
SULLIVAN: Don't stifle spontaneity
By the numbers
Isolation Booth: Takeo Spikes vs. Elvis Grbac
Keys to the game
The Edge
Curnutte's NFL picks
Curnutte's NFL power ratings
San Francisco 21, Bengals 3; Dec. 6, 1981
NFL notebook: Lambeau looks for a name
49ers 13, Eagles 3
Patriots 20, Dolphins 13
Titans 13, Raiders 10
Xavier shows heart in the Heartland
XU notebook: Recovering Frey finally in charge
Pokey Reese: Rise and fall of a phenom
Reds Q&A with John Fay
Joke is on Reds' arms
Reds notebook: Price is better, but pitching's not
Baseball notebook: Chan Ho to Rangers
Straight and 'arrow
Cottrell's family played role in success
RedHawks falls to Iona 57-51
Dayton tops St. Louis
Ohio State 72, Eastern Illinois 59
Pitino's show not all about the games
Top 25: Tar Heels upset No. 15 St. Joe's
UK's Hawkins makes his point
AHL: Ducks fall to the 'Cuse, 3-0
NBA roundup: Jordan, Wizards win ninth straight
NHL roundup: Sens shut out Devils in Jersey
Page Two power rankings
Coming up this week
Madeira's Fields thankful to be on the mend
Vikings surge in 4th quarter
Boys basketball roundup
Girls basketball roundup
Swimming: Bombers, Lions rule Silverlake
Wrestling: Firebirds prevail in Coaches Classic


Mail This Story (Click here) Send this story to a friend.

 
NEXT GAME
vs. South Florida (3-4)
• 1:00 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20
• Nippert Stadium
• Radio: WLW-AM 700

FOOTBALL

Paterno Won't Coach Penn St.-Temple Game

Paterno Won't Go to Penn St.-Temple Game

Spurrier Shadow Looms Large in Florida

No. 15 Rutgers Bracing for Historic Game

Hurricanes Stunned by Teammate's Murder

THE BIG EAST
Big East logo
UC joins Big East
• A special section of complete coverage, as the UC Bearcats join one of the nation's elite sports conferences.

MEN'S BASKETBALL

Terps Sign Gary Williams Through 2010-11

Bob Knight Approaches Winning Milestone

Buckeyes' Oden Content to Wait for NBA

Larranaga Enjoy Spoils of Final Four Run

Hansbrough Leads AP's All-America Team

AP's Preseason All-America Team

Gators Runaway Preseason No. 1 in Poll

Gators Return Starters to Defend Title

Texas Tech's Jackson Returns to Practice

Sutton Released From Hospital in Okla.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Paris Headlines AP's All-America Team

ACC New Powerhouse in Women's Basketball

Maryland Tops AP Women's Basketball Poll