Take a Kid, Grow a Nebraska Basketball Fan

By at June 20, 2012 | 10:00 AM | Print

Take a Kid, Grow a Nebraska Basketball Fan

When I was fifteen, my father and I took advantage of a special promotion that Nebraska basketball ran called “Take a Kid to the Game.”

For twenty dollars, we received two tickets on the benches in the back of the Devaney Center, hot dogs, popcorn and drinks. It was 1999, Danny Nee’s last competitive team that featured Venson Hamilton on his way to winning Big 12 Player of the Year honors and Cookie Belcher.

A then-NCAA tournament bubble team, the Huskers won a close game against Missouri. It was the most raucous environment in the Devaney Center that I can remember complete with Nee doing jumping jacks on the sidelines and cheers creating a pit-like environment on the floor.

Tom Osborne, please bring back Take a Kid to the Game for $25 (taking inflation into account) and/or have a discount ticket night in the non-conference season for the last season at the Bob. If this is going to be a rebuilding year, let’s at least rebuild with a full house and create a new generation of Nebrasketball fans.

Giving high-profile sports tickets away can be controversial.

The Tampa Bay Rays were criticized when they gave away tickets to their regular season finale while they were winning. The Charlotte Bobcats sold a select number of season tickets based on the pick they would get in the lottery.

Since they got the second pick, the price will be two dollars per game. Charlotte then offered free season tickets for the 2013-14 season if the patron paid for the upcoming season in full.

Salespeople don’t like surrendering commission, and giving tickets away shows some desperation, but humility won’t hurt Nebraska basketball right now. Far from it.

When Pinnacle Bank Arena opens, there should be good attendance for two or three years. The image issue still remains. The arena is being built solely for money. Discounting tickets this year will ease the appearance issue, and show fans that isn’t just about money.

During the Doc Sadler era, fans didn’t just stay silent, they didn’t even want to cheer. I was present for the upset of Texas A&M in 2011, and even though the Huskers came back and the court was stormed, the crowd’s ferocity in no way matched the aforementioned Missouri game.

Since that ’99 team, there hasn’t been one Husker basketball team that has had a “wow factor”, including the Aleks Maric teams. Many Nebraska students and young fans can’t remember a properly-functioning Huskers basketball team, hence the need for such a gesture. Who doesn’t like a good deal?

Some recommended strategies:

– Find some boys and girls clubs along with other civic youth organizations to set aside a thousand tickets a game for. Discount all of the unsold tickets for one of the first regular season games of the year the week before tipoff.

– For the biggest non-conference home game, discount all four to five thousand tickets for a “Pack the Devaney” game in late November or early December. Osborne did this for woman’s basketball when they played No. 5 LSU in December of 2009.

– Have five “Take a Kid” days throughout the year.

If attendance is still dwindling in the late in the season, hold one more discounted game for a final home game. The Arizona Wildcats football program had a similar discounting of tickets for their final home game last year, but it was still their lowest attendance of the year by 10,000 people.)

Giving away and/or discounting tickets does have its limits. Ultimately, the product on the floor has to be good to fill the arena consistently. This sale is about opening the door for a new generation of fans who will return in droves if/when the team is good.

I grew up on Husker basketball in the nineties when it contended for the NCAA tournament most years. I went to games with my dad and sister a couple times a year. Even over the past ten years, I occasionally make it to a game or two per season. Point being, I still have an interest even though the team hasn’t been spectacular.

Conversely, Nebraska volleyball has been a top national team all my life and I have barely a passing interest in it and rarely go.

Here’s what you should learn from this, Tom Osborne – Get fathers to take their kids to games and those children will be fans for the rest of their lives.

Follow him on Twitter: @derekjohnson05

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