Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I was able to attend tonight's meeting at St. Joseph's Mandeville Hall for the update on the progress of the Michael Hagan '85 Arena and, drum roll please... the real reason... priority ticket allocation for next season.

To be fair we first have to set the table. The Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse was dedicated in 1949. To give you an idea of the time passage -- Wilt Chamberlain was then 13 years old. Today in college basketball there is, of sorts, an arms race. We are a smaller, Catholic, Jesuit school with a small alumni base (i.e. no government money or 100,000 rich alums). What we've done up until this point on Hawk Hill has been nothing short of miraculous. Our gym has been described as a high school gym, a band box, and the facilities outside the court may have been one of the worst in the Atlantic 10 (one I might add that no one really wanted to play in - for fear of losing). My alma mater, Holy Ghost Prep, has nicer locker rooms. My office at home is twice the size as Phil's, and can't accommodate anyone over 6'3" either. What has been done, NCAAs, NITs, #1 ranking... has been done with smoke, mirrors, great coaching and perhaps even better recruiting. To continue to compete we needed to upgrade. No question about it.

Weight rooms, the Jameer Nelson Locker Room, the Delonte West Players' Lounge, Phil's new palatial office that can now welcome 7 footers -- all were "musts" to keep up with the Jones. Again the arms race... everyone else has it, so we have to have it. As we well know it can be the little things that attract a certain recruit, and with college hoops getting one or two guys can make the difference. There was debate on whether to build a new facility (90 Million) or upgrade the facilities and add another 1,00 seats for a third of that. Since we are an academic institution with a basketball team, and not the reverse, I'm happy we did what we did. I'd rather spend the additional money on expanding the campus (Maquire), renovate the Science Center and Library, build new dorms, and offer more in scholarship dollars to deserving students than have a brand new place. While the joke is that Jesuit schools are known for their great basketball teams -- it is not at the expense of academics.

Now for the bad news; someone has to pay for it. And that someone in part will be you, and it may leave a bad taste in your mouth. I mentioned at the meeting that I've had season tickets for 18 years, section I, row 6, seats 5 & 6. Much of the fun I have had at Hawks' games is sitting with the eclectic group of people around me, who in the last two decades have truly become part of my extended family. I'll skip the names and go with the descriptions; my buddy who sits directly in front of me, who is Jewish, always came just before tipoff with two smelly onion cheese steaks. When his Chinese-Catholic wife passed away the entire section felt the loss, and I wrote a eulogy for her, which was appreciated by her husband. The fellow now suffering from cancer who I asked for your prayers two weeks ago... sits in front of me as well. He came to my wedding, and I attended his daughter's wedding. Four seats away is another buddy who while a non-Catholic sent his son to the Prep and is the first person to send me a check when I beg alms for Jesuit charities in India or Camden. Next to him is someone we would never call 'righty', and over the years I've become the official photographer for him and his daughter. To my immediate left is a friend I think so highly of that I flew to Tennessee to attend his wedding, and was asked to give the benediction (if that's the right word!) at his reception. He is sometimes also referred to by his unofficial name of "where's Tom". I could go on but I think you get the point.

When I man I've never met uses poor judgement in beginning his introduction by boasting to those Hawks assembled that he came from the somewhat morally bankrupt UCONN program, and mentions that it is the "benchmark" for college sports, well... when he talks about priority seats, licenses, point systems et al... I hope he knows that he is breaking up my family. And many other families as well. He came from UCONN, and we may just be a stepping stone until his next job, but we, the alumni, long time fans, students, are in this until death. I know Don realizes that - he's one of us. I know Katie realizes that - she's one of us, and did as good a job as one can do delivering bad news. But again someone has to pay for this to become reality, and things may never be the same.

As the two pictures will indicate where you will sit will be based on a point system, similar to one used by SJU for allotment of NCAA tournament tickets. As with all things in life those who spend the most money will get the better seats, and that is only fair to reward those who make a greater commitment. The school will ask for a three year commitment from the season ticket holder, but where you sit may change every year depending on how much you give, or how much the guy behind you decided to give. So in effect it will be impossible to keep the seats you may have had for 20 years, virtually impossible to sit with your friends, and most likely possible that you will be in different seats every year. For those of you who "have been to Cincinnati and been to Buffalo, been to Carolina flying high and flying low"... this is a strange way to repay loyalty. If this is how Jim Calhoun does it... then I'm glad I didn't go to UCONN. But it seems the dye has been cast.
A few scenarios: 1) in today's difficult economy, coming off of a sub par season and a Hawk team that loses its two top scorers, few people ante up and the school changes the prices or criteria. 2) For the same reasons people opt for the lesser priced seats and the lower portion of Hagan Arena is empty many a night (i.e. Duquense, St. Bona, Fordham) as those seats remain unsold or are reserved for corporate sponsors to give away -- and we know how loyal they can be. This would be unfortunate since, as far as home court advantage is concerned, the FH has always been a tough place for our opponents. The old adage "be careful what you wish for" comes to mind. We got what we wished for, a state of the art facility (where we can actually get food and go to the bathroom at halftime and still make it back before the game ends;-) but having to pay for it, or the way we go about paying for it, takes away that same home court advantage. A person's wealth (or lack thereof) is not always an indicator of passion. Having an O'Rourke, a Berger, a Griffin, a Brennan a McBurney, and a DeLucia close to the court makes it uncomfortable for our opponents. Moving them away from the action will be detrimental to our winning. That's not a good thing.

So while the school asks for a three year commitment to your season ticket donation, it is my understanding that seats will be allocated on an annual basis, which I think is crazy. Not only will you not be able to sit with long time friends and season ticket holders but even if you do it may only be for one season. Should someone behind you give more money the following year than you do you will be moved to lesser seats. If the team should win 25 games God only knows where you might be placed if enough people do that. In effect you really won't have season tickets as we've known in the past -- I, 6 - 5 & 6 -- for more than one year. I work for the oldest theatre in the country with the largest subscription base (56K). People who have had 5th row center orchestra have those seats because they've had them for 20 years and have loyally renewed their subscription every year. I don't think they'd be happy if we raised their prices 50 - 100% for the same tickets, although maybe St. Joe's in on to something.

So there you have it. The Hagan will be dedicated on October 17th, and we'll open against Drexel on November 13th. We will now have a refurbished FH that the team needed and we all wanted. I hope it is worth the cost, to all of us.

The following from my buddy 6th Man. For more feedback click Hawk Hoops - Priority Seating Program for Hagan Arena..

Well, I was really impressed that Nino spent time at UConn which apparently has "set the standard" in college basketball. Not a good start. Thank God for Katie Shields or it could have gotten ugly in there tonight.babystinkbreath - given the 40% current giving rate, I think if young alums are willing to make a donation ($100 on top of ticket price gets you in the house) many will be able to get in. I think this plan will cause some people who have been hanging onto seats for years that they barely use, to depart. I think tickets will be made available. But I do hear you - they didn't seem to really have any plan to bring in new blood. The current plan rewards longevity and affluence, which makes sense. But if you can't get your foot in the door, you don't get the chance to establish longevity.
I actually think the point system is fair. I think the various giving levels are fair also. I also think that if they are not filling up the seats as they thought they might, those donation levels could come down. But I have some real concerns. As I figured, to keep my very same seats, the mandatory donation will be about what it is now. Of course, I'd prefer better seats, so I will have to make the decision as to whether or not I want to buck up for the upgrade.

1. Trying to sit with friends will take some serious doing. 44, Hawk Fan and myself were going to try to get season tickets sitting together. Well, even if we assume that we all have been giving the same donation each of the past several years, 44 has had tickets more than twice as long as I have. So he'll be much further up in the line. So he chooses his seats and I have to hope the ones next to him are still open when my turn comes.
2. The school is asking for an informal 3 year commitment to your giving level. BUT there is no similar commitment from the school to keep your seats. It's probably a longshot, but theoretically, if enough people all of a sudden decide they want to upgrade to my seats and they donate more, I could get bumped to lesser seats. Basically, they will be re-allocating seats ANNUALLY. Am I reading that right? Now I agree that this all sounds worse than it will probably be in practice. In practice, there probably won't be significant changes year to year. But there could be. Why ask for a 3 year commitment from the fans while offering no similar 3 year commitment to their seat location?
3. 600 of the 1000 new seats are going to be in the student section. So we are more than doubling the student section (which previously held 500). I think this is a mistake. I understand that the previous system was crappy. Too many students who wanted season tickets couldn't get them because of the lottery system. But this new student section will rarely be full. I hope the students prove me wrong, but it's going to burn my a$$ to see large chunks of empty seats when we're playing SBU on a Tuesday night in January. I just find it hard to believe that we can more than double the size of the student section and still fill it. Maybe we can. I hope we can because it will provide a serious home court advantage. But seeing lots of empty seats is going to cause frustration to alums who would have paid good money for them but were shut out.

Jack made out tonight and got a new stuffed Hawk from Uncle 44.


  1. i have seen a few schools do this and it never goes down well, no matter who does it or what system they use. they should of been laying this out 3 months ago to a small group to get feedback first. love don, but why he choose nino or niko to lay this out was a horrible idea. also, they are dedicating too many seats to students. this is not 04 anymore. student section was not be full many nights last year. they should get half the amount of new seats they are getting. having your seats moved every year is absurd. that needs to move to a 2 or 3 year schedule. our ath staff wont be able to keep up with a yearly change anyway. it is not worth SJ's effort to move someone 4 rows and then deal with all the domino effect. not worried about it as they wont be able to implement that.

  2. this whole FH was driven by the wonderful 04 season. 5 yrs later, we barely resemble that team or program. hate to say it, but seats wont be a problem if phil does not start winning again.

  3. So, some simple math and then a (sad) reflection.

    17 game Philles Sunday plan. 2 seats. Lower level. Tier 3. $39, per game. $1326 total.

    14 game Hawk season tickets. 2 seats, section I (it will always be section I). $500 donation. $30, per game. $1340 total.

    Where's the better value? Especially if I can't sit next to my buddies?

    Finally, lets face this fact: we are now customers. The product on and off the court will now be held to a different standard. I hope they realized what they're getting themselves into...


  4. its only going to get uglier. the product phil will put on the court this year will be below par. his excessive time on the rubber chicken circuit after 04 is coming back to bite him.

    on another note, its not a coincedence that the rollout was turned over to the new guy, niko. that was a conscious decison by the ath dept to push this off on someone else. Uconn may be the best basketball program in the world, but niko did not learn there that he has just gotten used.