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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Q&A: Northwestern Athletics discusses new men’s basketball ticket claim process

Daily file photo by Joanne Haner
Northwestern students wave balloons during the Wildcats’ regular season finale against Penn State last season. NU Athletics introduced a new student ticket claim process for men’s basketball games this year.

One thousand, seven hundred and forty-six. 

That’s the number of students who filed into Welsh-Ryan Arena to watch Northwestern volleyball take on No. 1 Wisconsin last Friday, the largest student crowd to witness an event at the arena. That figure was probably an underestimation, according to Andrew Cass, NU Athletics’ associate director of marketing and fan engagement.

This spike in attendance at fall sporting events has been propelled by a new ticket claim incentive for men’s basketball games. 

The points-based initiative was outlined in an email sent to NU students on Sept. 18. Point totals differ between sports — five for women’s basketball, four for Olympic sports, three for football and so on — in hopes of driving attendance to games. 

Students can continue accumulating points over the weekend, including at field hockey and volleyball matches against Michigan State on Friday. 

The Daily spoke to Cass and Walker Read, assistant director of ticket operations, about the ticket claim process for men’s basketball games this winter, increased attendance at fall sporting events and much more. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Daily: Northwestern men’s basketball attendance soared during conference play last season. With concerns over the efficacy of the online claim process, what went into this year’s new points-based system approach?

Cass: Doing a more formalized process. We can’t just let everyone hop on and try to claim at the same time, even though we knew (the website) wouldn’t crash. How do we help our other programs that are just as good, if not better?

There’s a lot of fun happening in all our other venues for other sports. They’re very competitive. 

We were like, ‘What’s the best way to reward that priority (given to other programs)?’ It’s if you’re supporting student-athletes, your other peers, which, in turn, is our points system. It’s to reward the most passionate and supportive students, and if you show up at events, then they will calculate on the back end. 

The Daily: What are the four claim windows, and how will that work for students? 

Cass: We’ll package nonconference in-session, out of session (nonconference) and then we’ll have Big Ten (play) split into two categories. This is, once again, to minimize the amount of claiming.

(The way the claim window will work) is, ‘Hey, the top 250 people with the most points get to claim tickets on Monday.’ Then, the next 250 people get to claim their tickets on Tuesday, and then so on and so forth. 

If someone gets the Monday claim and doesn’t claim that day, they can have all week until tickets are gone to claim them. The idea is that we reward those students that are showing up and getting points, and we’re still giving an opportunity to those who are maybe a little later (in the week).  

The Daily: Points will accumulate over four years, but what went into the decision to not give seniors a points boost?

Read: We went back and forth for weeks on whether or not to do it. We want the most passionate student body to be there and create a good atmosphere. If you’re going to every single game supporting athletics, you should be granted the best opportunity. And, of course, seniors have gone to different events (over the years), but at the same time, if you’re going to those events now, you’re going to get points and have higher priority.

Cass: It’s important to understand that it wasn’t a light decision. Just thinking of the simple math: If we gave a senior five points to start with and someone else attends a women’s basketball game, they’re already at that level. So how helpful would that have really been? We felt like it would’ve been checking a box. 

We don’t want to be performative. At the end of the day, if you’re passionate, love the ‘Cats and want to be there, then you’re going to have points, and you will get priority. 

The Daily: For students who are not on campus this fall and thus unable to accumulate points, how can they attend men’s basketball games in the winter? 

Cass: We’re going to have a separate lottery for those that are studying abroad this fall. It will be the same claim windows, the same games for each window. 

The registrar’s office has been very helpful in getting us student information, especially understanding that this is a brand new system. We’re trying to help students. 

It’s going to be a feeling out process, but that’s kind of the best way we know how to help those students that aren’t physically here to get points. We don’t want them to miss out, especially if they are juniors and seniors, and they had been supportive when no one else was supportive.

The Daily: How did the athletics department ultimately determine each team’s points total for sporting events, particularly with women’s basketball so heavily weighted?

Cass: This was another topic that wasn’t easy to come to, and I don’t think everyone agreed on it. There’s so much participation in men’s basketball and, from an equity standpoint, there was little to none for women’s basketball last year.

I think this was more of an olive branch to our women’s basketball program to be like, ‘Come support them, too.’ It’s a fun environment, and they need the lift from student support. 

The Daily: Were there any discussions over the summer about whether to increase the size of the student section?

Cass: We have expanded the student section this year.

Read: It’s an 11% increase in available student tickets, with a potential 27% jump if we can open up nonconference. So depending on the game, it can go up to that number.

The Daily: The email to students mentions the standby line from last season will return. Can you quantify how many tickets will be available to students at a given game?

Cass: We’ll probably have to figure out what our comfortability is announcing what those additional tickets look like. For instance, for Dayton, I think we’ll have no problem getting people to claim their tickets and sell out. 

Western Michigan may be more of a problem. Do we feel comfortable on that Friday before being like, ‘Hey, we still have 300 tickets, so if you want, come to the standby line’? It’ll just be a vibe thing. 

The Daily: Attendance at volleyball has skyrocketed with new records set against Yale and Wisconsin. Did you expect this level of engagement so soon, and do you expect it to continue through the quarter?

Cass: No, I didn’t expect that against Yale and Wisconsin. No one was expecting that turnout, and a ton of people didn’t get scanned. No one could believe their eyes — we were all just shocked. 

Now, this incentive structure is helpful. I think volleyball has some cool giveaways coming up. My general philosophy in this job is if I can get (students) there, once they’re there, they’re going to want to come back because they’re going to have a good time.

Read: Always remember as a student, athletics is an escape. Classes are hard, it’s taxing, but (athletics) is a good way to set the book down, set your computer down, log off and go have fun with your friends for three hours.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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