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VOL. 133 | NO. 123 | Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tiger Hoops Sees Boost In Season Ticket Sales

Pete Wickham

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Mark Cockerell saw his fill of University of Memphis basketball last season – and admitted it wasn’t on his nickel. “Went to almost all the games with tickets I got at work,” said Cockerell, who works for FedEx. “There were always lots of unused tickets floating around.”

On Friday, Cockerell spent a hot late afternoon in the cool, quiet of FedExForum, ready to lay down some cold cash for the upcoming season of Tiger hoops. He wasn’t alone. A steady stream of fans showed up for the U of M’s pick-a-seat day, looking over the stock of seats still available.

“Figuring those tickets won’t be so easy to get this year. They’ll get put to use for clients and customers, and that’s how it should be,” said Cockerell, after he paid for his two seats – with the requisite donation to the Tiger Scholarship Fund. “It’s going to be exciting to see.”

This is just another reason the case could be made that the university made one of the greatest “Penny” stock investments in history. Well, Penny Hardaway. Since being named the team’s head coach this spring, the former All-American and NBA All-Star has wildly lifted the hopes of a fan base that watched the program atrophy through the end of Josh Pastner’s tenure, and Tubby Smith’s uncomfortable two-year stay.

University officials told the school’s board of trustees earlier this month they expect ticket sales and donations to increase by $4.5 million in the upcoming fiscal year. This comes after hitting rock bottom with an average attendance of 4,583 last season for a team that won 21 games – but extended the Tigers’ postseason drought to four years.

“A lot of people stood with us and are happy they did,” said Dr. Adam Walker, senior associate athletic director for development. “Because a lot of people who came back couldn’t get the seats they once had. Maybe there’s some remorse that maybe they gave up their seats the last couple years, but they’re glad to be back.

“We’re less than five months away from the start of the season, and excitement is already very high,” Walker said. “Folks want to get on, they probably need to give us a call soon.”

Most of the available seats in the lower bowl have been sold, with club level getting thin as well. Those seats carry heftier price tags – from $600 to $2,700 along with donations of $525 to $2,350 going to the Tiger fund. The first 15 rows of the upper level go for $200 for the 18-game slate, with varying small donations to the fund. Seats above that are $100 for the year, with no donation.

“We’re running out of seats in the lower bowl, and are working our way through the club level. The first couple of rows in terrace are already gone,” Walker said.

Dr. John Ford of Germantown and his wife, Anita, were looking to see if club-level corner seats would be a comfortable fit.

“We first had tickets in 1987, when we were dating,” Ford said. “It was back at the (Mid-South) Coliseum, when it was tough to get a ticket.”

Anita Ford said she liked Tubby Smith, and said he did a good job coaching his team. But she says the couple didn’t attend a game last year.

They both said the excitement generated by Hardaway’s hiring, the staff he has put together and a Top 30 recruiting class – one liberally spiced with local prep stars – motivated them to get back on the wagon.

As the day wound down, Lawrence Sharp pulled out his wallet and stepped back into the Tiger fold after years away.

“Shortly after the Grizzlies came to town I decided to get season tickets for those games,” Sharp said. “I was excited that the NBA was coming to town. But now, Penny has got people really buzzing. He recruited great this time, and if he can get that Top 5 class next year like people seem to be talking about – it’s going to be something to see.”

For ticket information, call the U of M ticket office, 678-2331, the Tiger Scholarship Fund office, 678-2334, or go online to gotigersgo.com

PROPERTY SALES 64 151 1,493
MORTGAGES 45 105 1,152
BUILDING PERMITS 201 410 3,466