26 percent of purchased Badgers tickets in major sports went unused in 2015-16

One season after making a noticeable step forward in getting fans to use their tickets for its six major sports, the University of Wisconsin athletic department slid backward in the 2015-16 season.

Of the tickets bought or distributed for home Badgers games, 26.4 percent went unused, 4.8 percentage points higher than last season and the second-highest in nine years.

In 2011-12, 27.9 percent of tickets didn’t get used. That steadily fell to 21.6 percent last season before spiking again.

By sport, the share of unused tickets this season ranged from just shy of 20 percent for football to more than 61 percent for women’s basketball. The other sports included are men’s basketball, men’s hockey, women’s hockey and volleyball.

The data come from an analysis of the number of tickets scanned when fans enter an event compared to the attendance figure announced, which represents the number of tickets sold or distributed.

For instance, Bo Ryan’s final game as Wisconsin’s men’s basketball coach, against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 15, had an announced attendance of 17,287, the same Kohl Center sellout figure as for every other Badgers regular season game this season.

The actual number of people in the crowd, however, was 10,246, according to figures supplied by the UW athletic department, meaning 40.7 percent of the 17,000-plus tickets weren’t used.

Wisconsin gets the revenue from ticket sales regardless of whether the fans actually show up at games, but no-shows can impact parking and concessions money, as well as the game day atmosphere.

 Since the end of the winter sports home seasons last month, Wisconsin fired women’s basketball coach Bobbie Kelsey and men’s hockey coach Mike Eaves. Those sports had two of the three highest rates of no-shows this season among the six major Badgers sports; volleyball was the other.

For 16 home games, the women’s basketball team had an average announced attendance of 3,916 but only 1,517 fans in the seats, the lowest average in 10 years of data since the athletic department started using ticket scanners at the Kohl Center.

For men’s hockey, the average number of fans in the seats for 19 home games was 5,934, also a 10-year low. With an average of 8,753 announced, 32 percent of tickets were tossed.

The unused rate for men’s basketball was 26 percent, up from 18 percent in the 2014-15 season. Coming off their second straight Final Four appearance, the Badgers struggled at home early, losing nonconference games to Western Illinois, Milwaukee and Marquette.

Women’s hockey, which won conference regular season and playoff championships and advanced to the Frozen Four, had 25 percent of tickets unused for games at LaBahn Arena, the lowest in 10 years of data.