University of Arizona basketball earns money even when the players play themselves.
No other Pac-12 program comes close to making money in a pre-season scrimmage. In 2014, U.A.’s Red-Blue game grossed nearly $100,000. This year’s game sold out in 11 days.
For five years straight the scrimmage sold out as Arizona fans flock to the McKale Center to evaluate the new talent and see their favorite returners compete.
With Arizona super fans, a sold out student section (Zona Zoo), and crusaders who line up outside the McKale Center at sunrise for a 7 p.m. game time, one must beg the question: “Why?”
Undoubtedly, the Wildcats have seen massive success throughout the program’s existence. In recent years the Cats have dominated the Conference of Champions with ease generating more passionate fans and an expectation of winning.
But is a history of winning cause enough for a sold out pre-season scrimmage and a town full of die-hard basketball fans?
Every year as the summer shifts to fall and the weather changes, anticipation for the upcoming U of A Men’s basketball season sets in.
With 27 conference champion titles, five Pac-12 tournament championships, 32 NCCA tournament appearances, four Final 4 finishes and one national championship, the U of A fan – and Tucson — finds pride in the men’s basketball program.
Attendance for Arizona home games in the McKale Center dominates the PAC. For 31 consecutive years, Arizona averages 14,591 enthusiasts in the arena per home game and sets the gold standard of 99.6 percent capacity.
The second most in the PAC is University of Colorado, which averages 9,135 attendees per home game.
One expert says it comes down to Arizona fan’s fierce belief in their program.
“People are tying up a lot of who they are in their identity as fan of X-team,” says Edward Hirt, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University- Bloomington, who has also conducted research on the psychology of sports fans. “A huge part of who they are, where they derive a lot of their positive and negative affect, is from what their team is doing.”
And the Wildcats are doing big things. Sean Miller and his Cats have been a preseason favorite for the last few seasons.
Team identification “is the extent to which a fan feels a psychological connection to a team and the team’s performances are viewed as self-relevant,” says Daniel Wann, professor of psychology at Murray State University, who has spent much of his career dedicated to research about sports spectators.
The team spent eight straight weeks as the no. 1 team in the country during 2013-2014 seasons and never dropped out of the Top 10 during the 2014-2015 seasons.
With prolonged success comes the expectation of a national championship, and Miller has fallen short for six years running. Some fanatics blame Miller and his coaching abilities while some are more understanding of a top 10 finish.
Allison Flores, a U of A basketball enthusiast said, “I think some of the crazy fans blame coach (Sean Miller) for coming up short but most of us just want to see the team succeed. We would all love for the guys to bring home the trophy, but they work hard and its obvious that Miller is producing in other ways than winning a trophy.”
Tucker Rowe, a long-time basketball season ticket holder, said, “I don’t understand how we can be the No. 1 team in the country for as long as we were and not finish higher… and then not to mention losing to the same team twice. Something is the common denominator and it’s not our players.”
Hallie Wilson is a reporter for the Arizona Sonora News, a service with the University of Arizona School of Journalism. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org