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    Tuesday, August 09, 2022

    UConn can’t do any better than this?

    There is no sports fan among us who enjoys elevated ticket prices, especially now with costs of gas and groceries approaching the gross national product of Argentina. But many of us pay anyway, our God-given power to rationalize escalating proportionally to the credit card bill, if the team is successful and the product is entertaining.

    This leads to the following question for UConn leadership: Do you really expect Joe and Jane Average Fan to understand your decision to raise ticket prices this season and then offer a nonconference home men’s basketball schedule that’s more boring than a traffic jam?

    Gloryoski. If you’re going to ask more of the customers, could you at least give them something that moves the needle a smidge?

    This isn’t to say UConn has an insufficient nonleague schedule, what with road or neutral site games against Florida and Oregon and then outcome-dependent games in a tournament against a potential pool of Alabama, Michigan State, North Carolina, Iowa State or Villanova.

    But the home schedule? Hope they’re selling Red Bull at the concession stands. Stonehill, Boston University, Buffalo, UNC Wilmington, Delaware State and Long Island. The only mildly appetizing game is against Oklahoma State in the Big 12/Big East Battle, although it’s doubtful a 15-15 team from 1,500 miles away will inspire us to breathe into brown paper bags.

    And while we get that men’s basketball programs and bakeries share the idea that cupcakes are necessary, how is it that UConn is playing essentially nobody at home outside the Big East immediately after it decides to raise ticket prices? There’s nothing anybody in athletic leadership could have done in the last six months since the ticket decision was made to add another decent game?

    This isn’t about the students or the diehards who are always going to be there. But the difference between 7,200 and 10,000 at Gampel are the fringe people who want to be entertained. That doesn’t happen with Buffalo.

    Think about where we are. Season ticket sales are plummeting throughout college athletics, save perhaps SEC football. Joe and Jane Average Fan may look at this UConn schedule and forgo season tickets and cherry pick off StubHub for selected games, rather than the expense of season tickets and donation.

    If you are a season ticket holder and donor right now, are you going to pay more for tickets and donations or take the money you are currently spending and find StubHub seats for selected (read: competitive) games that better fit into your calendar?

    And what of UConn women's fans, now that Paige Bueckers, the most recognizable athlete playing in Connecticut, is out for the season? Even before Bueckers’ injury, UConn women’s fans, many senior citizens on fixed incomes, might not have been able to afford – or want to pay for – ticket increases. But now? It’s fatalistic to predict a precipitous drop in attendance. But ticket increases and an unfortunate injury to the best player is a bad combination for the bottom line.

    Nobody ever really believes when I write this, but it’s the truth: The rhythms of sports in Connecticut are such that when UConn wins, we all win. Rooting for UConn to lose is rooting against your own bottom line. When UConn wins, there’s more fans, more excitement, more ticket revenue, more people in and around the businesses in Hartford, more clicks, viewers and readers for media companies and on the band plays.

    It is odious enough to raise ticket prices and place revenue burdens on the fans — amid a $47 million budget deficit borne of bad decision making. But if you’re going to make us eat our vegetables, can you at least make sure they’re fresh and well prepared instead of dumped from a can?

    Elevated ticket prices for a program without an NCAA tournament win since 2016 was asking a lot of fans even before the decision to serve mushy lima beans. Very disappointing.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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