As I sat at the UC game last night, I found myself wondering what others seemed to be wondering: Where was everybody? The Bearcats played before a season low crowd of 5,113.
UC is averaging 6,140 per game, 46.5% capacity of 5th/3rd Arena. Mick Cronin even expressed alarm over UC's lack of ticket sales for the Crosstown Classic during his postgame last night, "we need to start selling our allotment."
UC basketball attendance this year:
6, 532 North Carolina Central
7,028 North Carolina State
6,194 Appalachian State
6,627 Kennesaw State
5,113 USC Upstate
I've attended four of seven games this season. Twice I sat court-side, as a member of the media, twice I bought tickets and sat in the upper level with Casey. During those four games I've taken notes and made observations about the team, crowd, arena, marketing/promotion, and the in-game experience at 5th/3rd arena. I've talked with alums, current and former season ticket holders and former players.
I believe UC's ticket and marketing departments have done a really nice job with their Radio/TV/billboard campaign, and offering affordable ticket packages.
Red & Black Pack: 9 conference home games including Louisville & Memphis in the Bearcat Lair (Upper Level Bleachers) for $125....an average of $13.88 per game.
Starting 5 Plan: Seats in the Upper Level Chairbacks for one (1) premium game (Memphis or Louisville) and any other four (4) home games for $125....an average of $25 per game.
I believe this team is fun to watch. The Bearcats are 7-0, with one of the best to ever play at UC in Sean Kilpatrick, a fun/emotional Justin Jackson, and a freshman class loaded with potential. The Bearcats are 81-32 (.717) in the last three plus seasons, with three trips to the NCAA tournament and a Sweet 16 appearance.
But the reality, not enough fans want to attend a UC game. That is not on the fans, that is on UC. It is up to the school to make fans want to attend games and experience UC basketball. In order to do that, UC basketball needs adjustments/improvements to the facility, schedule and in-game experience. Here is a list of ideas I've come up with:
Main points of emphasis: 5th/3rd Arena renovation, non-conference scheduling, TV package, ticket prices, in-game experience.
The place is a wreck from a design standpoint, with too much dead space and too many bad vantage points. Tear out the lower level seats and start over. Play at US Bank Arena while renovation is done. Make the lower level a bowl configuration, filling the wasted space in the V shaped open corners of the lower level with seats. Replace the seats in the upper level, they are hard and uncomfortable. The upper level seats without seat backs, need seat backs. Heck, I've paid for seats where I can't even see the other end of the court. Fans in most of the arena can't see the giant inflatable Bearcat the players run out of. We can debate what/how renovation should take place, I think all would agree renovation must happen.
I'm certainly open to US Bank Arena. As Athletic Director Whit Babcock told me, "If they built the Taj Mahal there, we've certainly have to consider it." I could see a marketing campaign of "Bearcats at The Banks!". I could see a Bearcats Happy Hour, involving Holy Grail and the other locations at The Banks.
Non-conference schedule: UC simply must upgrade the non-conference schedule. UC can't continue to schedule the likes of Campbell, Appalachian State, North Carolina Central, UMass-Lowell, Kennesaw State, USC Upstate, and Chicago State. Mick is correct when he called USC Upstate a quality opponent, quality in terms of an RPI win, but not quality in terms of fan perception. The schedule has already taken a big hit with the move from the Big East to the American Athletic Conference.
At the very least schedule area teams such as Dayton, Wright State, Western Kentucky, Indiana, Butler, Purdue, Ball State, Valpo, Indiana State, Evansville, Ohio. Fans of some of those teams might even travel to see the game.
Ticket prices: Drop the price of upper level seats with backs from $22 to $15/$10. Drop price of non seat backs to $7. Saturday we sat in section 206, Row 5 for Kennesaw State. I paid $50, including service fee. That price has to come down. Offer more in-game Red-Black Deals. During Saturday's game UC made a video board offer of $5 tickets for all remaining home games (excluding UL). Fantastic idea. Offer various future game ticket deals for fans in attendance, available for purchase during the game at the ticket office.
TV package: Do whatever it takes to get non-conference games on TV. The reality is that fans perceive a game not on TV to be a game that doesn't matter. It is difficult to get exposure for your product, create early season interest and grow a fan base when games are not on TV or stuck on ESPN3.
Upgrade in-game experience: No offense, but the dance team, delivering a pizza to the stands and t-shirt tosses don't cut it.
Consider the following……
Bearcat Happy Hour: Add pre-game activities that run one hour prior to tipoff, until tipoff. Included food/drink specials, bring in former Bearcats for photos/autographs on concourse, invite and rotate area bands to perform on concourse before weekend games. Make it a party.
Halftime entertainment: Bring in acts from the Zooperstars to frisbee catching dogs, Kyrstal Liu and the Red Panda Acrobats, the Jesse White Tumblers, and have youth basketball teams play games.
Giveaways: People like free stuff. I love the Keg of Nails giveaway for UC football Thursday night. Introduce a line of Bearcat Bobble-heads that include great players of the past, toss in UC schedule magnets, team photo posters, Bearcat Rally Towels, team cards commemorating various UC basketball teams of the past.
Grab and grow Bearcats:
*If you can get a child hooked on UC basketball today, you've got a shot at a fan for life.
*Bearcats GameStop Kids Zone: Create a hangout for kids with pop-a-shot and NBA2K video games. Let kids meet and get photos with Mr. Bearcat.
*Post-game Sign and Swish: After every weekend game, invite kids to shoot post-game free throws on the court and get autographs with selected UC players.
*Invite 10-20 area youth basketball teams to each game. Provide players with a free ticket and offer discount prices for parents/family. Mention the players on the scoreboard.
*Meijer High Five Club: Two youth teams get to form lines and high five UC starters during introductions. The two youth teams then play at halftime.
*Take A Kid to the Game: Bring a child (12 years or younger) to game and purchase general admission tickets for only $5.
*Kids make noise, that arena could use some noise.
*Add more video boards and add simple, fun stuff to get fans involved.
*Provide more scoring updates: NCAA, NFL, NBA, plus headlines.
*Improve/expand in-game scoreboard on end of courts. Instead of just listing the player jersey number/points/fouls, include players name, points, rebounds, fouls and assists.
*Phone trivia/contest: Every notice how many fans are looking at their phone during a game? Post UC trivia/games on the video board. Have fans answer on Twitter @GoBearcats or text to win prizes.
*Skyline 80 point Promotion: Fans get voucher for free cheese coney when Bearcats score 80 points.
*Skyline Chili contest: Which basketball is the 3-way under? Correct answer by fan means free Skyline for the row.
*Fan Struggle for the Steak: Fans in attendance text how many points UC will score prior to tipoff. Fan that guesses correctly gets dinner at Jeff Ruby's.
*Guess the Attendance: Fan text their guess of how many fans are in attendance and win a Bearcats prize pack and four tickets to a future game.
*Video board Player Q/A: 30-second recorded video bits with players answering funny questions to reveal things about themselves.
*Video board Coach Speak: :30 recorded videos bits with various UC coaches inviting fans to attend their upcoming game/answering fun Q/A about themselves.
In-game host: Hire an in-game host, (Xavier-Lindsay Patterson), to run contests/and do special guest interviews during timeouts. Kevin Youkiis was at Saturday's game. He was recognized by the PA announcer. Talk to him.
Dubois Bookstore Bearcat Book It: During timeouts, a UC student gets 30-seconds to shoot from various spots on floor. Each mat on the floor designates a $ amount. All winnings go towards books/supplies at Dubois bookstore.
Let's Move Down ticket app: Allow fans to bid on better seats and move down during game.
"Air Shuttle Paper Skies": During timeouts, drop coupons from ceiling of 5th/3rd. Fans grab for free stuff/discount coupons from UC sponsors.
The Staples Stat Pack: The media gets stat sheet updates throughout the game and have running stats available on laptops/iPdads. Give stat access to fans. Have ushers hand out complimentary pre-game, halftime and post-game stats or at least make them available at a designated spots in arena.
Montgomery Inn Bearcats Baseline Buffet Open the upper level dining area to all fans. Offer a pre-game/in-game buffet. It's sad to look up there during games and see it empty, sometimes dark.
The Walkthrough: Bengals practice at UC bubble
Colts.com Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano
(on what he’s seen from the Bengals in 2013):
-“Really good football team. Well-coached. Got playmakers on both sides of the ball. Special teams are solid. From an offensive standpoint, they got a great 1-2 punch at running back. The law firm (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) is a hard-nosed between the tackles guy and grinds out a lot of tough yards and makes a lot of first downs for them. Gio (Bernard) comes in. Second leading receiver. He’s dangerous. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s elusive. Great out of the backfield again in the pass game. And wide receiver, one of the best in the league in A.J. Green. The quarterback is playing well. Tight end. They got a bunch of weapons. Defensively, they’re ranked sixth in the National Football League for good reason. They got good players. Got a good front seven, good linebacking core, good in the back end. Mike Zimmer does a great job with them. They play fast, physical. They’re big, they’re long, they’re athletic. Really, really good football team. Well-coached. Marvin (Lewis) has done a great job there for a number of years. He’s put himself together a really good squad.”
Sports Talk LIVE from Redsfest tonight 6-9pm
Redsfest will be held blizzard or shine.
The show will go on, regardless of the weather.
Fortune cookies never lie
Peyton has planned for a "Snow Day" since reading her fortune cookie, when we got Chinese food last Saturday night.