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Fuzzy math: Bias + $ from student fees = cut-rate tickets for women’s play. Even at UConn. And even THIS basketball season.

September 23, 2010 – 3:23 PM

By Laura Pappano

Here we go — yet again! After a spectacular season (78 straight wins and counting…) and off-season that saw the UConn Women’s Basketball team walking the red carpet at the ESPY Awards and visiting Walter Reed Medical Center and The White House (again), the university’s athletic office is still treating their games like discount fare.

The UConn athletic department has announced the 2010-2011 schedule – and set its ticket prices. It will cost $22 to see the NCAA DI Championship women — and $30 to see the men.

For those who order season tickets for one of the two venues at which the teams play – Gampel Pavilion in Storrs or the XL Center in Hartford – there are discounted prices that are equally insulting: $15 to see the women; $25 to see the men.

It’s tempting to begin a debate about whether any given UConn men’s game is worth $8 or $10 more than any given UConn women’s game.

I say “tempting” because this may be the year to retire the old argument that guys dunking = more entertainment, says who? But then, this year we have the drama of watching an historic run given that the UConn women have just produced back-to-back perfect seasons. Can they keep the streak alive?

Rather than have this debate, however, let’s consider a story this week in USA Today pointing out how much non-athletes are charged to support college sports. At UConn, according to the paper’s analysis, 4.8 percent of student tuition goes to athletics. The point: athletics is not a separate business but part of the university operations and — such charges suggest – a key part of the college experience.

Like it or not, pricing is a signal of status. (Think: pricing and branding of clothes, cars – even food and coffee.) Why should students whose tuition dollars support both men’s and women’s sports help finance a system that treats female athletes as second class?

So here’s a word problem: #23 Maya Moore, also a member of the USA World Championship team,  has the ball and she’s driving to the basket. The team she plays on has yielded 7 NCAA titles, 9 national players of the year, 11 first-round WNBA draft picks, and 24 first-team all-america selections.

So what is the defense for charging  less because her team — and not the men’s — is on the court?

  1. 4 Responses to “Fuzzy math: Bias + $ from student fees = cut-rate tickets for women’s play. Even at UConn. And even THIS basketball season.”

  2. Dear Laura,
    Let me introduce you to a new concept apparently; it’s called “supply and demand”. In the marketplace here in CT, the men sell out usually, the women don’t. Accordingly, the men ticket prices are higher than those for the women. It has nothing to do with sexism, which team is more successful, or anything else but maximizing the entertainment revenue for the school.

    By David on Sep 24, 2010

  3. If 4.8 percent of student tuition goes to supporting an inequitable system, then maybe those least served by that system should ask for their tuition money back. Why should female students have to pay five cents on the dollar for the privilege of subsidizing a system that keeps the Davids of the world on top and the Bathshebas of the world on the bottom? (God knows they could find better uses for that money than paying tuition money to the jockocracy.)

    Much less why should the public support it? Isn’t UConn a public university and aren’t our taxes paying Jim Calhoun’s salary when I don’t give a damn out his sport? I thought my taxes were to support public education, and not to pay for David up there to go rah-rah at a ballgame.

    By tinheart on Sep 25, 2010

  4. Simple: it’s not that they’re undercharging for the women, it’s that they’re overcharging for the men. (And if I’m recalling correctly- which I might not be, since UConn isn’t my team- David might want to check his attendance numbers.)

    By Queenie on Sep 26, 2010

  5. i work in marketing, and indeed there is a pricing element to consumer behavior known as social judgement theory. it posits basically what LP is saying, that higher priced merchandise or services tend to be held in higher regard.

    i’m not sure that application applies here however, because sporting-event consumers are not typically using price as their comparitive standard in the same way as one would, say, evaluate a pair of designer jeans against store brands.

    in other words, when it comes to attending sporting events, the purchase decision is made in advance and is typically quite separate from price. most marketing research suggests that price is not an influencing factor on sporting event attendence, with fandom and the “event” of the particular game being primary motivators.

    By mcjack on Oct 1, 2010

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