One of America’s most prosperous college basketball programs has lately fallen on leaner times.
The University of Louisville, which has generated $116 million more in men's basketball revenues than any other school during the last decade, recently returned $419,166 to season ticket holders who sought refunds following the firings of men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.
Athletic department spokesman Kenny Klein said Thursday that the university athletic department returned $239,566 in ticket revenue and $179,600 in additional donations required to purchase some tickets in premium locations to 126 individuals or businesses who controlled a total of 315 seats at the KFC Yum Center.
Klein said that 78 tickets have been re-sold on a season basis, which will bring in $70,187 in ticket revenue and $101,600 in donations this year. Other tickets are being re-sold on an individual game basis.
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“At the time of the change in leadership, we were asked publicly if we were planning to offer a refund for tickets,” Klein said. “We said at that time we would discuss any questions or concerns with season ticket holders on an individual basis. We did just that and ultimately refunded those 315 tickets.”
Auburn University, which has suspended two players as a result of an FBI probe into bribery in college basketball, also offered refunds, but reportedly was able to re-sell more than 100 returned season tickets and maintain its sold-out status.
With more than twice Auburn’s seating capacity, the KFC Yum Center figures to be harder to fill. The crowd for Sunday’s season opener against George Mason was announced as 18,304 but actually closer to 10,000.
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University of Louisville Athletic Association board member Larry Benz, who agreed to a revised lease at the KFC Yum Center “very, very begrudgingly,” supported the decision to allow season ticket holders an escape clause.
"I believe offering refunds for tickets and donation level is the honorable and right thing to do," said Benz, a former chairman of U of L’s Board of Trustees.