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Posted on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 6:49 a.m.

New U-M basketball ticket fees are an assault on the most loyal and long-time fans

By Guest Column


ESPN's College GameDay broadcasts from the floor at Crisler Arena during warm-ups before a Feb. 18th game against Ohio State.

Melanie Maxwell |

Editor’s note: The following column was written as an open letter to University of Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon.

I write to register my disappointment and dismay at the recent announcement by the University of Michigan Athletic Department to significantly raise the price of season tickets to attend the basketball games at Crisler Center.

I (recently) received a communication labeled “The Next Chapter Begins.” This title seems to imply that there is some sort of (progressive, positive) natural step toward imposing upon me and my fellow long time fans a new and aggressive tax on purchasing season tickets. Quite the contrary, I view the new charging algorithm as a regressive, arbitrary, and uncalled for assault on all long-time fans of the U-M basketball team.

031512_ Hank-Heitowit.jpg

Henry Heitowit has been a U-M basketball season ticket holder for the past 30 years

Some might call this new charge a “seat license,” or surtax. I would label it as unwise and opportunistic. It is at minimum misguided.

I certainly understand the need to increase revenue in order to support the costs of all the U-M intercollegiate team sports (and I gladly pay my normal year-to-year ticket price increase). In recent years there have been an impressive number of new or updated facilities.

The newly minted basketball practice building is certainly a welcome addition in support of the team. Although I have to admit that many of us who played the sport in an earlier period, wonder why the team cannot practice in the same building that they play their games; and why the student-athletes cannot study in their rooms and the campus libraries. However this seems to be a part of the current era and expectations, and we as fans wish the team well in their new facility.

But I should add that the recent public relations on the building implies that it was paid for by donations to the Athletic Department building fund. The messages about the new ticket fees implies that we (the regularly) attending fan base should be financially supporting the structure.

One of the reasons that the new ticket tax is unfortunate is that the burden of the increase falls on the most loyal and long-standing component of the fans, the season ticket holders. Those of us who have season tickets in the lower bowl (the Blue section) will be the most impacted.

I should also point out that most of us who sit in the Blue area seats have done so for many, many years. We have faithfully supported the teams, through good seasons and bad. And make no mistake there have been many mediocre and less than adequate teams over the last decades.

Now that the team is suddenly and happily a successful and entertaining group, and for the first time in almost 20 years the arena is close to a sellout for each game, you now impose this new exorbitant tax upon us.

I personally have been a season ticket holder for almost 30 years, and I have been attending games at Crisler Arena for almost four decades, since I was a student at the university. I will admit that your new ticket license arrangement does give me some credit for my longevity and loyalty, but only dates to the early 1990s (my guess is that this is only as far back as your electronic database goes). I receive no credit for the previous two decades of loyalty (not to mention my payments for the season tickets for all those years).

Over all those seasons, through good teams and not so good teams, good weather and bad, strong opponents and lesser ones, Big Ten and nonentity-December- preseason contests, we in the Blue seats show up, game in and game out.

I do acknowledge that you have done a nice job in refurbishing the new Crisler Center. Although most of us were satisfied with the old Crisler Arena, except for the antiquated bathrooms, which you have still not updated. I suppose as soon as you do that, then we can expect a new user tax for that service as well!

The new ticket surcharge will impose a significant fee increase on families at a time when the Michigan economy is fragile. [A number of us are retired after long careers of service with the University and are on fixed incomes.] For me this only amounts to a modest increase for this year, but for many others the increase will be substantial. Future years promise even larger levies. And the Athletic Department has not even hinted at the amount that they will increase the regular per game and season ticket prices for next year and beyond. For many, the combined increases in the ticket prices and the added surcharge/tax could almost double the cost of tickets in the near future, increasing the costs by hundreds of dollars.

I think that I can safely speak for most of my fellow fans that we are overjoyed with the current coach (the best in all the years that I have observed) and this group of players, who perform with heart and effort and smarts and efficiency. We back them 100 percent. However we are less than pleased with the decisions of the administrative leadership. You should be embarrassed by your recent ticket price policies.

I will attend the last game of the season to cheer my team on, and to extend my appreciation for the fine careers of Stu Douglass and Zack Novak, who exemplify the best that is implied by the phrase “GO BLUE!” I am happy to applaud and honor the team and the coaches and the university. I wish that I could feel the same about the athletic department leadership, which I find disappointing and short-sighted.

Henry “Hank” Heitowit retired from the University of Michigan after a 35-year career in research and education administration. He has been attending U-M basketball games for almost 40 years, and has been a season ticket holder for the past 30 years.



Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

So, the dweebs are becoming aware that pro and semi-pro (including college) sports are all about marketing and the almighty buck. Vote with your dollars and stay away. There's a whole world out here.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

Mr Heitowit's comments reflect the thoughts of many of us. In the last few years the game experience has changed from college sports to a "pro spectacle" and the new definition of fan loyalty is measured in $$$$ When the next cyclical downturn comes let us hope the "new loyal fans" will keep coming.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

this isn't the federal government where you just spend money and have no way to pay for it. they are doing MAJOR renovations to the arena to FINALLY bring it up to date. They have to be able to pay for these upgrades. the Athletic Department at this time is in the best hands it has ever been in. a great business person who is a Michigan Man. that some are shortsighted and cannot see the big picture is sad but very common in the M community it seems.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 10:21 a.m.

I've come to accept the seat licenses. It's the cost of doing business, paying for facilities to improve our game day experience while also helping to attract top talent to come play at Michigan. But im outraged at the athletic departments seating plan for a different reason. They have chosen to reseat all of Crisler based on priority points - mostly determined by contributions to the athletic dept (long term loyalty will get you 50 points, but that's a far cry from what is needed to maintain decent seats). What many fail to realize is that simply being willing to pay the seat license imposed on your current seats will not be enough to allow you to keep your seat. It will, in essence, be available to any person that wants it who donates more than you do. Someone who has never bought season tickets can now swoop in while the team is doing well, request up to eight tickets, and get the best seats their contributions will allow, at the expense of loyal fans who can't afford to donate as much. I have a couple questions: if a fan is willing to pay the seat license on their existing seats, why not let them keep those seats? Donors add value to UofM sports for sure, but i assume they didn't make those gifts with the promise of better basketball seats today, at the expense of current season ticket holders. We use bar coding at games - why not enforce an attendance policy at games, especially for desirable seats? Attend x games a year or you can't renew those seats. It doesn't have to be you that attends, but give your tickets to a friend, neighbor, teacher, coworker or coach if you can't attend. Put a butt in the seat. Attendance has been awful for years, even in the best seats, especially for non-conference games. My issue isn't with the seat licenses, but with the reseating. Im anxious to see the response when people finally come to grips with the seat licenses only to find that they can't retain their existing seats and instead have been moved for a wealthier fan


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

the empty seats are the most dissapointing thing to me and has been for years. and a LOT of seats in the blue are not used for almost all the pre-season and part of the B1G season. it was better this year but I agree with you, if you buy the seats USE THEM or donate them to Motts for kids to use.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

So the greybeards finally learn that they have been supporting thankless youths all this time. What else is new?


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

Who are you calling a greybeard? I find this very offensive to my religious beliefs.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

I agree with Henry's comments. I have been a season ticket holder for 40 years and although I have been in the lower bowl, I have never got out of the ends of the arena. Now to get out of the endzone and purchase a sideline seat in the lower bowl, I can pay $250 per seat next year and $500 per seat the following year. I enjoy colleage basketball and love the caoch and UM team, but for a program that was thankful to get invited to the NIT just five years ago, it takes a lot of audacity to ask for this sort of license fee.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

Mr Heitowit, I applaud your passion. Unfortunately, your comments on loyalty are short-sighted. A "loyal" fan to Dave Brandon is not one who has been going to games for multiple decades, but rather one who shells out the big bucks (whether they step foot in a stadium/arena or not). Brandon will publicly state that this is all "to provide the best gameday experience anywhere in the world for our fans." He is a liar. He does not give one rat's rear-end about you, me, and the other 'regular' fans.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

The crime being committed against University employees is much greater than what Henry describes. In order to QUALIFY to pay the seat license, you must first have enough priority points. In order to have enough priority points, you must first make donations to the athletic department. We are not talking about a few hundred dollars. For good seats in the lower bowl, the priority point qualification is anticipated to be 100 points, which corresponds to over 10,000 dollars! Oh, Henry will get 50 points for being a long time season ticket holder, but all that will do is give him the opportunity to move to seats behind the backboard in the lower bowel or less desirable seats in the upper bowl with the rest of the UM employees who do not have corporate salaries to support their donations. This is hijacking of an athletic program from the University and transfer of good seats to corporate cronnies who buy them with donations to the athletic department. Henry, you should be happy they allow lowly University employees in the door at all. Don't forget, we need to pay Brando's salary of over a half million a year, and we should thank him for all he has done to boot!


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

I agree with what you said. And once the corporate cronies buy up all those lower bowl seats, they will be half empty during games, yet the university won't care because they'll be RICH!! Just use any NBA arena as an example. The real fans are stuck in the 'nose bleeds' with binoculars while the lower bowl remains half empty.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

The man with season tickets, who complains about a surcharge, is like the woman with a ham under each arm, complaining that she has no bread for her sandwich. The author should be thankful that the U waited until the basketball team was doing well before the price hike; the season-ticket surcharge at Spartan Stadium started when John L. Smith was coaching.

Rob Pollard

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

While I'm inclined to agree with this gentleman, it would be helpful to know how much of an increase we are talking about here. Is the seat license $100 a year? $1000?


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

According to this Detnews article, anywhere from $50 to $7500. (FYI... MGoBlue has the first two rows listed at $3000 and $1700, respectively... and they are sold out.) <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Gwynne O.

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

This isn't only happening at U-M. It is happening at many other schools around the US, even those with a lot lower athletics' cash flow like the University of Hawaii. Many of these fees are not only the idea of the AD's but also from higher up. Even if Martin were still the AD, these fees in some form would be put into place. I do not agree with this, but unfortunately the current business model for universities and colleges with athletics programs that have sports with the potential to generate income is to get these fans, who are a captive audience, to pay more. This is nothing new as MSU basketball had significant fees increased in their season tickets fees back in the 1990's after Izzo's teams started dominating the Big Ten. Even when Bobby Williams was coach of their football team they also added more fees in spite of their record. Both U-M and MSU have mandatory donations to hold season football and hockey seats and they are not the only schools to do this. MSU also has this mandatory donation for their basketball season ticket holders.

Ron Granger

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

It is bewildering that they have not fixed the bathroom problem, and instead have focused on marketing, glitz, and hype.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

wow are you out of touch. you do know they are tearing out ALL the walls and completely re-doing the concourses right?


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

that's typical brandon philosophy. Don't address the underlying issues that have caused a decline in the product. Just focus on changing the public perception and rake in quick cash.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

I can understand the complaints, but please spare me the financial hardship whining. I see too many tickets on Stubhub at inflated prices to shed a tear for the poor, put upon, lower bowl season ticket holders.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 7:05 p.m.

stub hub------i'd love to know the financial relationship between bigten schools and stub hub. the athletic dept openly promotes the sale of tickets on stub hub. i can't believe there isn't some quid pro quo.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

Brandon is a corporate hack. Everything he does is in the interest of immediate revenue without the slightest consideration to long term value of the &quot;michigan brand&quot; (a phrase that he seemingly uses as a bludgeon).


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

Welcome to the U-M. Now leave your wallet at the door.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

Has it ever been any different? Only the scale has slided.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

Did you ever think that all of those &quot;mediocre and less than adequate teams over the last decades&quot; were hurt by facilities that were stuck in the 1960s and 70s? I miss the good ole days as much as anyone else, but we can't expect things to just stand still. The world evolves and changes. Crisler Arena will always have a special place in my heart as the dark, cozy venue it was, but Crisler Center is home to the Wolverines now.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Useless - good catch - I wrote before I verified alas, I would make the claim they have separate facilities because their venue is always in use and in some cases, shared with other teams (Clippers) -- do all NBA teams have separate facilities? And I guess what Lebron want, he gets. My point remains - college hoops does not need separate facilities - and the fact one team has one is played up by coaches during recruiting to the &quot;they don't have&quot; what we have etc. and its hard to recruit so coaches made it supply and demand when they want to run their own little thiefdom w.o worrying about competing with the womens team (or even the volleyball team) Let's be honest and admit college hoops do not need separate facilities


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Actually Lumberg, almost all NBA teams have a separate practice facility removed from the arena they play in. Kobe and the Lakers practice at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. Lebron and the Heat have separate courts, lounges etc attached to the American Airlines arena. Get your facts straight.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

Talk about revisionist history Darknight! The Fab Five and the great teams from the 80s into the late 90s all played in the same &quot;less than adequate' facilities and thrived and are you seriously taking the viewpoint that the teams suffered because of facilities and not the NCAA sanctions that decimated the program for more than a decade? Basketball is not football - you dont need a different practice facility and how do I know this? Because pro teams practice (unless not available) on their home courts and they do just fine. if Lebron and Kobe can handle it, U-M can too - its all about the entitlement aspect of collegiate athletics in every facet, nothing more.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

someone has to pay for the imporvements. you think it is free. that is why people are staying home and watching it on the big tube. cheaper to buy a 52&quot; vs tickets.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 10:59 a.m.

It's a shame, Michigan sports have become a commercial marketing enterprise 100%! That's it, get used to it.

just a voice

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

AD Dave B will be happy to see this comment