April 1, 2003

NCAA Stirs Big Ticket Dilemma

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Unless you’ve been in a cave for the last 48 hours, you are probably aware that the men’s hockey team is going to the Frozen Four. If you’re anything like me, one of the first thoughts that went through your mind after Matt McRae’s shot miraculously evaded B.C. goalie Matti Kaltiainen on Sunday was “tent city.”

Sunday night I was so excited about the prospect of attending the Frozen Four next week, I could barely contain myself. And then I learned about the NCAA’s ticket policy for the Frozen Four. To be honest, I was crestfallen.

Buffalo’s HSBC Arena, which will be hosting the Frozen Four, holds 18,595 people. According to the NCAA’s ticket formula, each of the four schools participating will receive about 500 tickets for students plus 50 for its band. That equals roughly 2,200 tickets to be distributed among four schools’ students.

In addition, last year, about 6,000 tickets were distributed through the NCAA’s priority pool, which includes fans who regularly attend the event regardless of participants. Another 4,000 were sold through the general pool, which is a lottery administered by the NCAA and open to all fans.

So, if my math is right, that’s about 12,000 seats accounted for. What, then, happens to the remaining 6,000?

This year’s Frozen Four will be co-hosted by the MAAC conference, Canisus, and Niagara. Each host will likely receive a share of tickets. Even if each gets 1,000 tickets, which is likely a huge overstatement, that leaves 3,000 tickets.

One might assume that these remaining 3,000 tickets would also be available for sale to the general public (in addition to the 4,000 distributed in the general lottery). And this assumption would be wrong.

See, the NCAA is also obligated to take care of its corporate partners … to the tune of 3,000 tickets.

So just to recap, 4,000 tickets available to the lucky lottery participants, 3,000 tickets available to corporate sponsors, and 2,000 tickets available to students.

Therefore, the Cornell Athletic Ticket Office will sell approximately 500 tickets to the entire Cornell community this Thursday. And by no fault of its own, that is all the ticket office will sell.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

For an organization that prides itself in promoting amateurism and purity in college sports, the NCAA has again failed brilliantly. Since early November, Lynah Rink has been fully packed every Friday and Saturday night to cheer the Red to its first undefeated home season in 30 years. The same can be said of the home venues of Minnesota, Michigan, New Hampshire and loads of other college hockey teams throughout the nation.

Lynah Rink, one of the smaller venues in the nation, seats around 3,000. To limit these 3,000 fans to only 500 tickets to college hockey’s ultimate event is not only unfair, its cruel.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all 18,000 seats in HSBC Arena be reserved for the four participating schools, but one would think that the NCAA might be just a little more generous than 2,000 seats.

This is the fourth straight year that tickets for the Frozen Four have sold out well in advance. But if the NCAA is to continue to reap the benefits of the growing popularity of college hockey, it must not alienate its core fan base — the loyal cadres the fill collegiate rinks throughout the country each winter.

Archived article by Owen Bochner