Davidson College students had two reasons to smile during their Elite Eight game: their team had come out of nowhere to beat Georgetown and Wisconsin, and their trip to Detroit was free because Davidson’s administration paid for game tickets, transportation and lodging for students who wanted to go to the game. While Georgetown’s precarious financial state makes such a cushy arrangement unlikely, Davidson has the right idea: giving college basketball back to college students. This is something the NCAA, with its restrictive ticket policy, seems loath to do.
The NCAA’s ticket distribution system is set up to maximize profits and minimize student enjoyment. Only around 60 tickets were provided to Georgetown students attending the first and second round games in Raleigh, N.C., and only around 250 were given to each university that participated, according to Hoya Blue Communications Director Dmitriy Zakharov (SFS ’08). In contrast, Raleigh’s RBC Center, where the games were held, has room for almost 20,000 people.
The NCAA has forgotten that college games should be played primarily for fans at the colleges. Most tickets go to corporate sponsors and the institutions that host a game, neither of whom are concerned with attracting students. Other tickets end up in the hands of well-networked alumni who live in the area. None of these recipients care as much about the game’s results as college students, detracting from the excitement at game time and hurting teams whose supporters couldn’t navigate the labyrinthine ticket process.
“The huge Davidson/Carolina crowd definitely had an effect on the game,” Tim Ogino (COL ’11), a member of Georgetown’s pep band, said. “In the second half, when they got within ten, then the crowd started getting into it. We were so small, we couldn’t affect the game at all.”
Tickets were just as scarce at last year’s Final Four, when only 150 Georgetown students were allowed to sit in the coveted lower bowl section at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome—a much larger venue—while the rest of the Hoya contingent was delegated to nosebleed seats.
Winning the loyalty of corporate sponsors is more attractive to the NCAA than giving cash-strapped college students a break, but profit motive shouldn’t cloud the NCAA’s mission. After all, if it weren’t for college students, the NCAA wouldn’t exist. Hopefully the NCAA will recognize the debt it owes college students in time for next year’s March Madness.