That was the plan for this weekend’s regional in Bridgeport, Conn., until word began spreading among Maryland fans: there were no tickets to be had. And so Abraham and many of her friends will likely stay home at a hastily planned watch party, despite this regional being a short six-hour drive from College Park.
“It makes me feel bad for our girls, because they really do love our fans traveling with them and cheering them on,” Abraham said. “The way I see it, we’re not able to cheer on our team.”
The school did, in fact, get its usual NCAA allotment of 100 tickets. That’s been the allotment for schools in the women’s basketball tournament for years, although typically schools are given the opportunity to purchase more, which Maryland has usually done. (Their regional request has been about twice the 100-ticket allotment in recent years.)
Bridgeport, though, features a smaller venue — Webster Bank Arena seats just 7,881 fans. And with Connecticut’s women’s team in the midst of a historic win streak and certain to be playing regional games in Bridgeport, the arena sold out of inventory on March 9, four days before the brackets were even unveiled.
Maryland fans, of course, were not about to buy tickets at four different regional sites in early March, just in case. The school reserves its 100 tickets for family and friends of players and coaches, leaving fans without an option. And hosting sites do not maintain extra tickets on consignment, just in case the participating teams might want more. Which all means the group of die-hards that follows the Terps around the country is now staring at either heavy markups on the secondary market or skipping the short trip entirely.
As you might imagine, they aren’t thrilled.
“It’s just real disappointing, for me and I know for a lot of others,” said Bonnie Miller, another fan who has followed the Terps around the country. “The fans support the team, and the team expects us to be there, and the fan support drives the team. That’s another sour point. I feel like I’m letting the team down because our group won’t be there — as a group — to support them.”
“I’m sorry, I just don’t think it’s fair to the schools that advance this far to not allow their fans to be able to buy tickets,” said Lori Bott, another fan who has been to four or five past regional sites but is now unsure about the Bridgeport trip. ” I understand they want to sell tickets, and I understand for the women’s game maybe they won’t reserve as big a block for the teams that advance as they do for the men, but 100 tickets is ridiculous.”
“It’s always been a foregone conclusion that whoever wanted to go to a women’s regional could go,” said Bill Henaghan, a longtime Maryland booster. “In all my years, I’ve never had something like this happen.”
“Schools ought to have the opportunity at some point in the process to say yes, we need this many or no, we don’t,” said Dale Burns, a Maryland fan who bought tickets for this weekend’s games on the secondary market. “It shouldn’t be meant to be a home game for Connecticut every year.”
This is the point where some observers might note that Maryland, in fact, had home games in the first two rounds of the tournament. The women’s event went from neutral sites in the opening rounds to home gyms, a decision that boosted crowds but also benefited heavyweight programs like Maryland’s.
Still, no West Virginia fan who wanted a face value ticket to Sunday’s second-round game would have had the problem Terps fans now face. Meanwhile, Connecticut’s program posted this note on its website: “Knowing that the NCAA allotment would not satisfy our demand, UConn secured as many additional tickets as we could from the arena, an additional 500.”
So not only did the Huskies receive de facto home games in the regional semifinals and finals, their program also secured six times more tickets for their fans than Maryland, Oregon and UCLA received.
What to do now? Some Maryland fans looked into buying tickets from the other schools playing at the site. (Oregon told Miller their tickets were available for $265 each, plus an additional donation to the athletic department of $125.) Others have considered buying on the secondary market, although that would mean paying more money for worse seats than they typically receive, and also being scattered throughout the arena instead of sitting as a group. There’s still a chance that the Pac-12 schools might not use up their allotment, and that more seats will be made available.
None of these options can replicate the typical postseason experience, which is why Bott used the word “furious” to describe the reaction of Terps loyalists.
“Everyone in the entire country knew the Huskies would be assigned to the Bridgeport region,” she wrote. “Everyone else had to wait to see where they were assigned. By then, the tickets were sold out. How is this in any way fair?”