Missouri opened season-ticket sales for men’s basketball far earlier than usual, hoping to capitalize on the excitement of Cuonzo Martin’s hiring in March.
The strategy appears to be paying off despite a conflict with football season-ticket sales and fiscal year-end donations to the Tiger Scholarship Fund.
Fans already have gobbled up 4,481 season tickets for next season, including 962 new season tickets in areas of Mizzou Arena that were opened up for such sales this season, primarily in the 15,061-seat building’s upper bowl.
“We’re very pleased with where we’re at,” Mizzou senior associate athletic director for strategic communications Nick Joos said. “We’ve got work to do, but we feel really good about the reception Coach Martin has received so far.”
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Missouri typically doesn’t put basketball tickets on sale until mid-summer. And that figure doesn’t include the 1,104 student tickets that have been sold, a more than 400-percent increase compared to last season, when fewer than 250 student tickets had been sold by early June.
With the summer term underway, Joos said Mizzou is currently selling about 100 student tickets per day and anticipates selling out the roughly 4,000-ticket allotment.
Another 1,500 Tigers fans also have put down deposits for new season tickets and are awaiting seat assignments.
That’s a total of approximately 7,000 season-ticket pledges with more than five months remaining before the 2017-18 season tips off Nov. 10 against former Big 12 rival Iowa State at Mizzou Arena.
But the Tigers’ administration, which greenlighted a more aggressive outbound ticket sales partnership with IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions in January, isn’t satisfied yet.
“Our goal is to sell out the building,” Joos said.
Last season, the Tigers sold 8,876 season tickets, a figure that included students and complimentary tickets.
After enduring 9-23 and 10-21 seasons during former Missouri coach Kim Anderson’s first two seasons, season-ticket sales plummeted 19.6 percent for 2016-17 and have dropped 28.7 percent since 2012-13, when MU sold 12,448 season tickets.
Ticket sales are expected to rebound despite an 8-24 record last season with all of the offseason changes — highlighted by the additions of consensus top 2017 prospect Michael Porter Jr. and former Illinois commit Jeremiah Tilmon.
“I think there might be just a little bit more (fans at Mizzou Arena this year) — maybe 1,000 or so,” junior forward Kevin Puryear, a Blue Springs South graduate, said tongue-in-cheek.
Missouri changed the way it calculates attendance midseason in 2016-17, transitioning from a turnstile count to a tickets-sold count. Before that, it was tracking for its lowest average home attendance since the NCAA started tracking men’s basketball attendance 40 years ago.
Attendance isn’t expected to be an issue next season after Martin was hired and lured one of the nation’s top recruiting classes — including guards Blake Harris and C.J. Roberts, graduate transfer Kassius Robertson and, possibly, Jontay Porter — to Columbia.
Puryear is excited about the prospect of the first sellout at Mizzou Arena since March 5, 2013 — a 93-63 win against Arkansas during former MU coach Mike Anderson’s first game back in Columbia.
“That’s always been a childhood dream of mine, and I think it’s every college player’s childhood dream, to play in front of a packed crowd,” Puryear said. “I’m extremely excited to take on this new journey with this new team.”
The Tigers sold out three games in 2012-13, the program’s first in the Southeastern Conference, after selling out six games in 2011-12 during the final season in the Big 12, but have failed to sell out each of the last 69 games at Mizzou Arena.
Restoring the roar of the home crowd is a key objective for Martin.
“Without (fans), it doesn’t really matter what level of talent you have,” Martin said. “You can be very successful, but it’s a tough, tough game when nobody’s in the stands watching.”
While the renewal deadline technically passed last week, Joos said MU will continue accepting season-ticket renewals throughout the summer.
“No one is being dropped,” Joos said.
There are, however, logistical issues to work out before new season-ticket sales resume, which Joos said he anticipates will happen in mid-July.
Mizzou is in the process of handling upgrade requests from existing season-ticket members, which requires reseating to accommodate such requests before the wait-list requests can be processed.
Deposits for new season tickets, which cost $50 per seat to be added to the wait list, still can be placed from now until sales resume next month.
Missouri men’s basketball season-ticket sales
2017-18 (through June 8): Approximately 7,000