Coming off of a magical 30-5 regular season and an amazing postseason tournament run that saw them claim their last possible Big 12 championship, you’d figure that the Missouri Tigers would have a great crowd for fans to show the team their appreciation.
The student area, referred to as the “Zou Crew,” was jam packed. A sea of yellow met the backdrop of one baseline at Mizzou Arena.
But sadly, the alumni seats were left stagnantly empty. This should come as no surprise however, as this is the situation for Missouri Tiger basketball…every single season.
As is the case for most every major college basketball program, these are what’s referred to as the “donor seats.” In order to purchase seats in the lower part of the lower bowl at Mizzou Arena, you must donate at least $1,500, and up to $5,000 per seat, depending on how close you want to sit. This is on top of the season ticket price, which isn’t listed on Missouri’s official website.
To occupy a sideline seat anywhere else in the lower bowl, a $750 donation is required.
But the problem that Mizzou is currently experiencing isn’t the price of these seats, which is actually very reasonable when compared to other top programs. The problem is that the people who get the season tickets, for whatever reason, choose to not show up to the early season games. Some even choose to sit at home until the conference slate starts, and even then the only time that fans were generally in their seats and ready for the game was against the Kansas Jayhawks.
The environment close to the court that is created for Missouri to play in, in a state-of-the-art basketball arena that many NBA teams would drool to have, is a complete embarrassment to the team and the school in general.
To make matters even worse, up in the general admission seats that generally aren’t shown by television cameras, fans are packed in shoulder-to-shoulder while they watch tons of empty seats sit unoccupied around the court.
For those concerned, I’m not suggesting that Missouri should restructure the student section to put the students on television. The current student section for Missouri is one of the best in the nation. But I am suggesting that the University of Missouri, and more specifically their Director of Athletics Mike Alden, does need to find a way to put people in these seats.
It affects the overall image of the team and school, recruiting profile and above all else the general fan excitement level.
Is there an answer to this problem? Of course there is, but it’s a matter of the right people acknowledging that this is an issue, and then choosing to do something about it.
One idea, is to create a program where people who purchase donor season tickets have the option to send tickets, for games they’ll likely not attend, back to the University to be resold or redistributed.
A program such as this, would make the environment for games against teams such as the last game against the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars, an absolute showpiece of Mizzou basketball as well as perhaps an even more marketable television event.
Another, but perhaps less likely to be embraced idea, would be to penalize ticket holders that don’t show up to games by increasing their season ticket cost more the following year. This would create incentive for ticket-holders to make attempts to give the tickets away to family, friends or co-workers so that at least if they aren’t going to show up to the game, their seat is occupied by a Mizzou fan who will be cheering for the team.
Kansas had their entire arena sold out for their exhibition opener. Alumni seats were just ask packed as the student area. The North Carolina Tar Heels opened their season against the lack-luster Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs, but were packed in to watch the contest.
Missouri will next host the Alcorn State Braves on Tuesday night, where you can be sure that the crowd would look worse than a high school game, despite the fact that the team on the court will be one of the best in America. Something needs to change, and sooner than later would be preferred.