Gonzaga’s athletic department, facing financial strains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, is asking men’s and women’s basketball season-ticket holders for their help but not requiring it to retain their tickets down the road.
The school says in a letter sent this week to season-ticket holders that is it operating under the assumption “fans will not be allowed, or limited at best, for home games” due to COVID-19 concerns.
In lieu of renewing season tickets, GU is inviting ticket holders to contribute to ZAGS UNITED, the school’s campaign to support student-athletes and “keep Gonzaga among the nation’s elite programs.”
“We’ve had a really positive response thus far from season-ticket holders helping us through this,” GU Athletic Director Mike Roth said. “We all realize everyone is in a tough situation. What we don’t want to do is tell a season-ticket holder you have to do something because we want to show our loyalty back. Not everybody is in the same position because of this whole COVID thing.”
Gonzaga sent a letter two weeks ago that left some season-ticket holders under the impression they had to make a donation to keep their tickets.
Roth and associate athletic directors Jared Hertz and Chris Johnson stressed that’s not the case.
“Some folks (were) reading it as, ‘I’m being forced to choose between donating and losing my tickets’ and that upsets me,” Hertz said. “You don’t have to do anything and you will retain your tickets.”
Season-ticket holders who donate to ZAGS UNITED by Feb. 1 will receive double priority points because their gifts will be matched by those made by long-time benefactors. Gonzaga uses a priority points system to determine access to special events and assigning seat locations at away games, the West Coast Conference Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
GU doesn’t anticipate being able to host pregame and halftime socials at home games. If fans are permitted at all this season, access to tickets will be communicated by email.
“Our plea to our base, fans and friends of the program, we need all the help we can get because we’re not going to get some of the things we’ve got in the past,” Roth said. “What will TV be able to show? What will our sponsorships be if businesses are hurting or shut down?”
Gonzaga’s streak of NCAA Tournament appearances and frequent appearances on national television are huge selling points with boosters, but on rare occasions have the opposite effect.
“We’ve been running into that for years,” Roth said, “where people have a perception because of our level of success and how well we’ve been able to manage the dollars in a way that is very fiduciary and we’re one of the top teams for ESPN exposures that we must have a bunch of money.”
Roth said the WCC is the primary beneficiary from the ESPN contract and COVID-19 is hampering budgets at every school and every athletic department.
“People are stepping up for us in tremendous ways,” Roth said. “We want to put ourselves in a position that Gonzaga’s name is mentioned with the Kentuckys, Dukes, North Carolinas and Michigan States. We’ve built something crazy special and we’re not done.”
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