After a slow start to this year, the Bruin Baseball team pulled together and made a late-season charge up the standings. While not enough to reclaim their preseason top-5 spot, they finished the regular season alone on top of the Pac-10. In a bit of a surprise, entering that final weekend, the NCAA announced that UCLA would be one of 16 teams hosting the Baseball regional - the opening weekend of the Baseball tournament. Even though the fortunes of the team were mixed until late in the season, given the success of last year, it should have been long expected by the administration that the school would again be selected to host an NCAA regional.
Last year saw some difficulties in planning by Morgan Center, though such issues were understandable given that not only was that the first time in a quarter-century that UCLA Baseball was hosting a Regional, but they also were dealing with the recent passing of Coach Wooden, and planning his memorial and other commerations. We understood and accepted the problems in ticketing and marketing, chalking those up as a learning experience. Sadly, it seems that they have not learned from last year, or from other programs.
While the logistics of ticketing is one issue, marketing is yet another. Again, while it was not assured, or considered highly likely that the Bruins would be selected as a regional host, there was enough of a chance (particularly with any carryover from last spring) to at least have prepared a solid marketing framework to deploy over the past weekend, both to inform the UCLA community about the games, and to give them an easy way to find out how to buy tickets, if they so desire.
From the beginning, the ticketing was a mess. When the initial release on the official site first went out on Sunday, there were no ticket prices. The planning for the Regional should have been done when they put a bid in, just in case. Why weren't the ticket prices set in stone and ready to go up right away? Later on, they added ticket prices, but it was just an update to the original release so anyone who had already read the release wouldn't have any reason to click back and see the update. On Monday night, they decided to change the price of student general admission tickets. On Tuesday morning, they changed the price of student reserved seating. Why are they changing ticket prices after they've been announced?
Additionally, the original release said tickets were available from the CTO and they provided a phone number to call for tickets. Why not online, you know, like it is 2011? Well apparently they were being sold online, the releases just failed to inform fans of this until the tickets had been on sale for hours and some fans waited on hold when they called in for tickets for 50 minutes.
Looking at the other teams filling out our bracket; Fresno State had the usual story on its athletics homepage describing how and where they were seeded, with ticket prices as well as contact information for CTO. But in addition, their AD posted a few very clear messages on their Twitter page, including a post right before CTO opened on Tuesday with ticket prices and CTO's phone number, so that their followers had all the needed information right in front of them. UC Irvine has given their baseball team top billing, with the entry page to the athletics site being simply a College World Series page, complete with Los Angeles bracket info and their Friday afternoon matchup with Fresno State. I already described the issues with the ticketing info on the official site, but Morgan Center also missed on taking full advantages of social networking.
While Fresno State was able to give all the information needed to order tickets in a couple of twitter posts, UCLA's effort on the site - and outreach to it's 10,000+ followers - fell flat. On Sunday, the athletics twitter feed did announce that UCLA would be hosting a Regional, with a link to the official site giving (incomplete) information for the weekend. After announcing the participants and seedings for the LA regional, there was no ticketing information shared until late Tuesday night, a full business day after tickets had gone on sale. While NCAA postseason ticking information was not shared before Tuesday night, Morgan Center did make sure to post a reminder of today's deadline for season tickets for next year's basketball road show on Monday. The effect of Twitter and other networking avenues on ticket sales is certainly up for debate, but the great thing about that service is how simple it is to share information - it would only have taken a marketing intern 5 minutes to write a couple of <140 character posts early Tuesday morning with ticket prices, CTO's phone number and an online ticketing link. With 10,388 followers as of this morning, there is a fair chance that such a message could have spurred a few extra Bruins to call up or log on and buy tickets.
It is not as if the Morgan Center has attempted to get Bruins to the ballpark this weekend anyways. Were there any videos with highlights showing UCLA as Pac-10 champions that would get people excited? No. How about highlights last year's great run and getting people excited with those memories? No. Did the Morgan Center send emails to Wooden Club or Alumni Association members to inform them about the Regional and try to get them to buy tickets? No. If the Morgan Center really wanted to fill the stadium with Bruins, which you would think they would want, they would have had a presale for Wooden Club and Alumni Association members, but of course they didn't.
There are a lot of things that the Morgan Center could have done to make this weekend great. They didn't even try. They tried to follow last year's poor blueprint. At an institution like UCLA that preaches excellence, why is just doing the same and not trying to improve acceptable? Of course asking for better and going farther is a bit of a stretch considering they can't even get it right with the things they are already doing.
As a reminder, all-session tickets are currently available through the CTO (310-825-2101) and online via Ticketmaster. Single game tickets will go on sale Friday morning if UCLA has not sold out of the weekend passes.