Oversold basketball tickets leave students with no entry to games after long waits


©Jacob Rice

Iowa State students wait outside of Hilton Coliseum before the Iowa State vs. Texas men’s basketball game on Jan. 17, 2023.

Standing in line for hours to get into a basketball game can be one thrill, but standing in line for hours to get turned away is an unpleasant experience.

The Iowa State men’s basketball team has reported a large turnout of filled student seats for the 2022-2023 season, approximately 2,400 (capacity) seats. However, with a total of 4,100 student tickets being sold each season since 2018, not all students can appreciate the Hilton Magic at each game. Students have found themselves getting turned away due to the filled capacity in Hilton Coliseum, even after having a pre-purchased ticket.

“The current student ticket policy for basketball was adopted in 2012 in consultation with our student advisory group, which is made up of student leaders from various student organizations on campus,” Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard stated in an email. “The student advisory group meets each fall and each spring with the director of athletics and members of our marketing and ticketing teams.”

Pollard stated that the student ticket policy is based on having the most students in attendance for as many games as possible, not just the best games. With this in mind, the average student attendance has been approximately 50% of the tickets sold. This number has been consistent over time, according to Pollard.

“Because only 50% of the student ticket holders use their tickets each game, the student group decided in 2012 to oversell the student section (i.e., sell more than 2,400 tickets) for the season, knowing that only 50% of those tickets sold would be redeemed each game,” Pollard stated. “This policy was based on feedback from other schools that also oversell their student sections.”

Even with only half of the student ticket holders using their tickets each game, the university was still forced to turn away students for at least one game this season due to the oversold ticket method. Some students found it difficult to take this in, as they intended to cheer on their fellow Cyclones.

“It’s really frustrating [getting turned away] because even for those games, I got in line for like an hour and a half before, and we still got turned down,” Lauren Lutz, a senior studying event management, said. “I feel like there just needs to be a better system to figure that out because we shouldn’t be losing all of our money just because we can’t stand out here for five-plus hours.”

This issue isn’t a new occurrence, as the first oversold student ticket game goes back to 2013 during the men’s basketball matchup against the University of Iowa. However, this year has had students questioning the process, especially with no heads-up.

“It’s always been like this, but it’s been extra bad this year,” Hannah Pento, a senior studying management information systems, said. “It happened to us last year for the Iowa game. My opinion on it is that if they sell out all their tickets, then they should email us beforehand.”

Students are let in 90 minutes before the start of the game, according to the Cyclones’ website. However, arriving 90 minutes before the game still doesn’t guarantee a spot, so students were spotted camping in front of Hilton the nights leading up to the ISU vs. Texas game.

“People are literally sleeping outside and risking getting sick just to get seats. It’s insane,” Audrey Sease, a freshman studying marketing, said.

The weather this season has also given students a reason to feel that waiting in line to get into the games is simply not practical.

“If it’s below freezing and I can’t feel my feet after 30 minutes even when I wear two pairs of socks, then I don’t think people should have to wait in line any longer than an hour,” Sophia Kouba, a freshman studying management, said.

While the frustration of feeling like money has been wasted falls over many students, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel, or the end of the season.

“When any students are turned away for a game, all students that did not scan in for that game are issued a refund for the pro-rated value of that game,” Pollard stated. “The refunds are credited to the students’ U-Bill at the end of the basketball season.”

If looking for a time to arrive at a game to catch a seat, the trend has been that the earlier, the better, at least in some students’ eyes. Some may even question how early is too early when it comes to guaranteeing a seat.

“The longest I’ve waited in line for a game was nine hours, and it was for the University of Kansas game,” Sadie Witterschein, a freshman studying psychology, said. “We started camping out at midnight because we all thought it would be a fun experience. It was such a big game that we knew if we didn’t get in line that early then we would’ve never gotten into the game.”

Even if students decide to go to a game with the possibility of being turned away, looking at the schedule ahead can be ideal for making it into the stadium. Noticeably from this season, along with previous ones, the higher ranked teams resulted in the biggest crowds, considering #9 ranked Texas was the first game this season students were turned away.

“Since 2012 (11 years), we have only had six games where students were turned away,” Pollard stated. “That is less than one game per year.”

For some, waiting in line as early as hours is not an option with class and work schedules. With this in mind, this may prevent their ability to attend highly-ranked games in the future.

“The student leaders overwhelmingly believe that the tickets should be distributed to those that are willing and able to wait in line,” Pollard stated. “The student leaders believe that is what is most fair and also rewards students for really wanting to attend the game.”