Tulane is trying to find the line between sticker shock, revenue generation and adding value for fans of its men’s basketball program.
A 13-5 record, including a 4-2 start in the American Athletic Conference, has begun to create some buzz around the Uptown campus that senior guard Jay Hook said he hasn’t experienced in a while.
“Walking around, people are stopping me more and already talking about the tournament and stuff like that,” Hook said. “It’s a good feeling to have people on campus that you’ve never seen before, stop and tell you that you’re doing a good job and it gives us a better feel for everything going on.”
Off to its best start since 2007-08 and playing a slate of recognizable in-conference opponents in an arena with a maximum capacity of just 4,000, the Green Wave’s newly instituted variable pricing has become a topic of conversation around a program that went years without a ticket shortage.
However, entrance to Wednesday’s 8 p.m. tipoff at Devlin Fieldhouse will cost any spectator without a prior ticket package at least $30. That cost is triple the normal get-in price at Tulane’s on-campus home, where baseline bleacher seats normally run $10.
It’s also the price to see Tulane battle Cincinnati on Feb. 28. And when the defending national-champion Connecticut Huskies come to Devlin on Jan. 31, a ticket at the window rises to $50.
Considering the Green Wave ranks last in The American in attendance, averaging just 2,697 fans per game, there’s reasonable questions to be asked about whether the demand is anywhere close to reaching the supply.
Tulane defends the move by pointing to its season-ticket packages which started at $200 for 18 home games and its Flex Plan that allowed fans to buy five ticket vouchers to be used at any time (with a maximum of two for Connecticut) for $70.
“The price point is for those people who say they don’t really go to our games but figure they’ll come out for one game against a premier opponent,” associate executive athletic director Brandon MacNeill said. “We don’t think that price is too high for someone who is just doing a once-per-year thing. What we are trying to do is make value for those who want to come to a few games and make it financially reasonable and advantageous for them.
“It’s a line of trying to maximize the walk-up crowd, but also take care of those who care to come to more than just one game and become fans of the program.”
MacNeill said Tulane’s season-ticket numbers dramatically increased before the season, thanks both the increased visibility offered in the American and the boost in Tulane Athletic Fund donors provided by the newly built Yulman Stadium for football. However, getting those season-ticket holders and students to actually attend the game has proven to be more difficult.
“People have the seats, but they weren’t coming before,” MacNeill said. “If we keep winning and doing it against teams like what’s coming up, they’re going to. I’m hearing from them. People are smart and they know who is legit, and they’ll come out for that. We are anticipating this three-game stretch will be really big for us.”
Beyond home-court advantage, Tulane also may be catching SMU at a fortunate time.
Despite the Mustangs (14-4, 5-1) beind in second place in the AAC and earning a spot as one of the hottest teams in the country by winning 13 of its past 14 games, there’s a cloud hanging over coach Larry Brown and his team as it travels to New Orleans.
SMU received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA last week, which outlined an academic scandal in the men’s basketball program. In its wake, assistant coach Ulrich Maligi has taken a leave of absence and former McDonald’s All-American forward Keith Frazier has been suspended pending his appeal.
“SMU has received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA,” SMU said in a statement. “We are working through our response to them, and will have no further comment.”
Frazier averaged 10.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, helping the Mustangs leap to No. 20 in the RPI and a likely NCAA tournament berth.
“This is about his eligibility in school,” Brown told Andy Katz of ESPN.com on Friday. “We appealed it, and we are waiting to hear. That’s what this is about.”
Starting with SMU, nine of Tulane’s next 10 opponents currently rank in the Top 90 of the RPI as it loads up on games against the upper echelon of The American.
Two games against Cincinnati (No. 34), Tulsa (44), Connecticut (76) and one game against SMU (20), Memphis (87) and Temple (56) make for a difficult stretch before the calendar turns to March. It’s a slate Tulane coach Ed Conroy said is unlike anything he’s experienced and said it may be most challenging six weeks in program history.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for our program and our team,” Conroy said. “I don’t remember the last time Tulane faced this kind of a stretch.”
Tulane to host Tulsa: Looking to build a four-game win streak for the third time this season, the Wave (14-3, 5-1 AAC) will conclude its two game homestand against Tulsa (8-9, 3-3 AAC) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Devlin Fieldhouse and will air live on The American Digital Network.
Last week was all about the dramatic wins for Tulane as it defeated UCF and SMU by a combined margin of three points.
“We’ve talked about playing more aggressive in the first half so we don’t put ourselves in the position of having to pull it out in the end,” Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said. “We’ve learned a lot these last two games but it certainly adds to the confidence of this team.”
Tulane leads the series against Tulsa at 13-7. Tulsa is coming off of a 74-52 victory against Houston on Saturday.
Leading the Tulsa attack is Ashley Clark (13.1 ppg), Mariah Turner (12.3 ppg) and Kelsee Grovey (10.6 ppg). Clark leads the team in rebounding with 7.1 rebounds per game while Turner leads with a .531 shooting percentage.