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Basketball Ticket Sales Increase at U

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August 13, 2017

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The University of Minnesota Athletic Department has sold almost 500 more public season tickets for men’s basketball than in early August of 2016.  Totals in several public season tickets categories as of August 3 of this year showed increases over 2016, according to figures provided by the department to Sports Headliners.

The Gophers reported 251 new public season accounts and 594 new tickets.  Those totals on August 3, 2016 were 63 new accounts and 102 tickets.

The public season tickets total provided was 6,848, compared to 6,141 last year.  (No student season tickets figures are published here because the sales campaign doesn’t start until September.)

Although the athletic department is still selling season tickets for the home 2017-2018 schedule, the renewal deadline for past ticket holders was May 31.  The department reported 97.8 percent of tickets were renewed, compared with 82.7 percent a year ago.

The “box office” trend isn’t surprising given the unexpected success of last season’s 11-7 Big Ten team and national media optimism about the 2017-2018 Gophers who Sportingnews.com ranked No. 10 in the country.  The public season ticket totals will increase between now and the team’s first games in November, and student sales seem likely to surpass those for 2016-2017.

That’s good news for an athletic department which has seen a decline in public season tickets since 2000.  There has also been a drop off in individual game tickets sold.  In recent seasons sellout crowds have been the exception at historic 14,625 seat Williams Arena.

Minnesota ranked 11th in average attendance last season in the 14-member Big Ten Conference. The Gophers averaged 10,308 fans per game and ranked No. 37 in the nation.  By comparison, Wisconsin led the Big Ten with a per game average of 17,286 and ranked sixth nationally.

For years the Gophers basketball product has often been disappointing fans including the 2-16 Big Ten record in 2015-2016.  Last season’s 11-7 record was just the third time since 2000 that Minnesota has finished with a winning record in league games.

Coach Richard Pitino, who will begin his fifth season at Minnesota in the fall, has the program trending upward now with all but one of his key players returning for next season.  He also has promising newcomers on the 2017-2018 roster led by flashy New York City point guard Isaiah Washington.  There appears to be more good news coming with what might be a national top 10 recruiting class in 2018.

A run next winter at a Big Ten title and a couple of wins in the NCAA Tournament could really make ticket numbers jump in the next 12 months.  That would be a welcome addition for a season ticket base whose core features aging customers who have been supporting the program for a long time.

Worth Noting

Tre Jones

One player who likely won’t be in Pitino’s 2018 class is Tre Jones.  The Apple Valley High School senior point guard will announce his college choice later today and basketball recruiting authorities will be stunned if he doesn’t select Duke.  (Every predictor on 247Sports, for example, says Duke).

The Blue Devils have been on his short list and the successful experience of older brother Tyus Jones at Duke seems like an important factor.  Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski might be the best basketball coach on any level in the world and has produced a long list of pros.

The Saint John’s-St. Thomas football game at Target Field on September 23 is one of the college games for the 2017 season featured in the current issue of Sports Illustrated.  S.I. said: “This one promises to be a thrill for those seeking the purity of ye-olde game: no national scholarships, no national-TV cameras, no football-player only dorms, no leaving early for the draft.  It’s just two teams filled with mostly local kids pounding away for bragging rights.”

That was former Timberwolves broadcaster Kevin Harlan and ex-Vikings quarterback Rich Gannon working Thursday night’s Packers-Eagles game from Green Bay on the Packers TV Network.  Harlan said the network, including stations in Alaska and Hawaii, is the “third largest” in the NFL.

During Friday night’s Twins-Tigers telecast, analyst Torii Hunter asked broadcast partner Dick Bremer if he will be wearing his Speedo swimsuit Monday.  The Twins will have an off day then and Bremer plans to be at his lake place. Bremer’s Monday plans prompted Hunter’s question, and a quick no from the veteran broadcaster.

Hunter’s son, Torii Jr., was drafted in the 23rd round last year by the Angels and is playing center field for the Orem Owlz in the Pioneer League where he is hitting .317 with one home run and 11 RBI in 32 games.  The 22-year-old was better known for football at Notre Dame where he was a wide receiver.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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