Ticket sales for men’s and women’s basketball at the University of Minnesota are in contrast with one another. After consecutive last place finishes in the Big Ten, the men’s program has declined in non-student season tickets sold, while the women’s team has increased interest and sales because of new coach Dawn Plitzuweit.
Sports Headliners requested ticket totals from the University through the discovery process. As of early last week, the U had sold 4,780 men’s non-student season tickets, representing 1,534 accounts. This contrasted with totals of 5,704 and 1,887 for the 2022-2023 season.
The U cited three reasons for decline in sales and accounts. “Changes in life circumstances (including relocating, home/city), general disinterest and poor team performance.”
Ben Johnson was hired as men’s coach in March of 2021 and his first two seasons have been rocky. His overall record is 25-40 and the consecutive last place conference finishes are the first in program history dating back to 1898. Minnesota is a popular media choice to finish at the bottom in 2024 after having a 2-17 league record last season.
Pricing of non-student season tickets is unchanged from 2022-2023, so presumably that wasn’t a deterrent for most past buyers. Fan dissatisfaction is evident, though, and there was preseason fan interest in the amount of the coach’s buyout after the coming season. Sports Headliners has confirmed with the U that if notice was given March 15, 2024 the buyout amount is $6,519,340.
The public can also purchase mini-plans or partial season tickets. That total as of last week was 289 versus 574 for 2022-2023. Mini-plan sales are expected to increase (as they normally do) in the early weeks of the season that began November 6 with a win over Bethune-Cookman.
Student season tickets have declined from 2,699 to 2,033. There’s been no pricing change since last season.
Excluding season tickets and mini-plan tickets, the U reported 7,305 single game tickets sold for the 21-game home schedule. The most interest is in the January 23 Wisconsin game. Projected attendance is 7,054 for the Big Ten home opener December 6 against Nebraska. Williams Arena seating capacity is 14,625.
Attendance generally has been in decline for years. The Gophers averaged 9,451 fans per game last season. That was the lowest since 1970-1971 (8,395). Fewer fans mean less revenue for the self-supporting athletic department that has only three money making sports—football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey.
Johnson has several key returnees from last season’s team who, along with a few newcomers, could lead to an improved season. Junior forward Dawson Garcia was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the week of November 5 when he averaged 22.5 points per game in two games. Freshman guard Cam Christie, a four-star recruit from Illinois, scored 18 points in his college debut game against UTSA on November 10. He was entrusted to take the last shot to tie up or win Thursday night’s home game against Missouri but was unsuccessful as the Gophers lost 70-68 after blowing a 20-point second half lead.
The Gophers are 3-1 after yesterday’s 67-53 win over USC Update.
Athletic director Mark Coyle hired Plitzuweit last March to replace Minnesota basketball legend Lindsay Whalen as Gopher women’s head coach. The move drew criticism from those who thought Whalen should have been given one more season to turn around her struggling program but the reception to Plitzuweit has mostly been positive from the public and fans.
Plitzuweit has 28 years of coaching experience, with 16 as a head coach. She has been the head coach of winning teams at (most recently) West Virginia, South Dakota, Northern Kentucky and Grand Valley State. As a head coach she has 15 winning seasons including nine 20-win seasons and two 30-win years.
The 3-0 Gophers play national title contender Connecticut at 4 p.m. today in Williams Arena. The blue-blood Huskies feature Minnesota legend Paige Bueckers, who won national player of the year honors in 2021, and the expected attendance of over 9,000 could be the largest home crowd of the season.
As of last week, 2,469 non-student season tickets, with 899 accounts, had been sold. This contrasted with totals of 1,876 and 704 last season. The U reported “no significant” pricing changes to season tickets from last season.
The mini-plans or partial season tickets total was 244 versus 157 for 2022-2023. There are no student season ticket sales, with students admitted free.
The single game tickets total (excludes season and mini-plan sales) for all 18 home games was 14,902.
Reasons for increased ticket sales include optimism regarding the new coach, excitement about women’s college basketball, an attractive home schedule and a roster that features local talent “playing well.” There are eight Minnesota natives and two Wisconsinites on the roster.
Sophomore guard Mara Braun, from Wayzata, was the Big Ten Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 5. She averaged 25 points, 5 assists and 3.5 steals in opening season wins over LIU and Chicago State.
The closest win for the Gophers was a 22-point victory over North Dakota State.
Average home attendance last season was 3,353. Fans will turn out when given an exciting and winning team as evidenced about 20 years ago with consecutive seasons averaging more than 9,000 in attendance.