Chimelis' Column On Hall Of Fame Tip-Off - UMass Athletics

Chimelis' Column On Hall Of Fame Tip-Off

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Read Ron Chimelis' column in the Springfield Republican about the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. Here's a glimpse ...

The games were good. The teams were of reasonable caliber. Yet something was missing from the Hall of Fame Tip-Off basketball tournament. Fans.

The normal next step to the discussion is to criticize the market. Springfield doesn't support anything, right? Wrong. At least this time.

This poorly-attended tournament was sabotaged when the Hall of Fame could sign only seven Division I teams and not eight, forcing the traditional brackets to be replaced by a confusing schedule of teams in no discernible format.

It was doomed when fans were denied the chance to buy single-game tickets. That probably kept a lot of UMass fans away, and it was the UMass presence that officials were counting on to carry this event.

Tip-Off organizers were up against it, but the ticket pricing helped keep the crowds down

Published: Tuesday, November 23, 2010, 5:00 AM     Updated: Tuesday, November 23, 2010, 8:32 AM
TCU takes on Bradley in Men's basketball in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the MassMutual Center.Games like Texas Christian-Bradley did not excite local fans, who were also expected to buy full-day ticket packages for the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the MassMutual Center.
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The games were good. The teams were of reasonable caliber.

Yet something was missing from the Hall of Fame Tip-Off basketball tournament. Fans.

The normal next step to the discussion is to criticize the market. Springfield doesn't support anything, right?

Wrong. At least this time.

This poorly-attended tournament was sabotaged when the Hall of Fame could sign only seven Division I teams and not eight, forcing the traditional brackets to be replaced by a confusing schedule of teams in no discernible format.

It was doomed when fans were denied the chance to buy single-game tickets. That probably kept a lot of UMass fans away, and it was the UMass presence that officials were counting on to carry this event.

Even a price cut enacted days before the event, which offered a full day's schedule for as little as $19, did not entice people to come out.

The unfortunate result was a story we hear all too often. The puny crowds, not the competition, became the story of a downtown Springfield sports event.

The first night drew 2,274. Day two was without the University of Massachusetts and brought in 1,066, an announced number believed to include players, coaches, referees and the security guy watching the door.

Monday's package included a Division I, II and III game. It drew 1,512 for a three-day total of 4,842, hardly the 12,000 figure thrown around before it all began.

We all like Springfield College and AIC, but can UMass fans be blamed for not wanting to buy a full-session ticket Monday to see those teams, just to see theirs?

The Hall of Fame was counting on the Tip-Off name to draw fans back. When the original, one-game Tip-Off went dark in 2005, wasn't its loss bemoaned in the city?

Rather than help promote this tournament, the Tip-Off name might have worked against it.

Fans were spoiled by the early Tip-Off Classic years, when the nation's most glamorous programs came here. The teams in the 2010 field resembled some of those in the final years of the Tip-Off Classic, when fans asked why they were getting Fresno State and UAB instead of Kentucky and UCLA.

The teams that did come probably expected more. New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said he anticipated more people on hand to root for Derek Kellogg's UMass team against his own.

Had Menzies flown in a few days early, and absorbed the tepid response, he would not have been surprised. 

Menzies could have also checked out the crowds at the Mullins Center. The UMass base these days is soft, too

The $19 ticket was only a bit higher than the price for a UMass ticket at the Mullins Center. But the better seats went for $29 or $39.

Beyond the numbers was the psychology. People don't want to feel they are being charged for something they don't want, just to get something they do.

You can get away with tournament ticket prices per session if North Carolina or Duke are in the session. Maybe in future years, they will be.

But that will not be here. Hall of Fame officials made clear from the start that this tournament would be rotated around New England, starting in Springfield and presumably returning in a brief few years.

Let's say next year's Tip-Off is in Boston or the Mohegan Sun Arena. Let's say a big name or two signs on. 

Already, I can hear Springfield fans decrying how they were asked to support a mediocre field, only to see the superstar teams brought in for audiences elsewhere.

Facing time constraints and fierce competition from similar events, the organizers did the best they could with the teams. I don't blame them for the field.

The ticket pricing is another story. It should have been obvious from the start that "package deal'' prices would be seen as a turnoff, not an enticement. 

Organizers should ask themselves, "If I really want to see UMass play at 7:30, should I have to pay for Dowling-Loyola Marymount at noon?''

They can blame the market. Or, they can correct the mistake by modifying their pricing strategy, depending on the format of next year's field - wherever the event is.

This is a tournament worth developing - and someday, once the growing pains are ironed out, worth bringing back to Springfield.


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