On Nov. 8, a highly anticipated season opener awaited the Ohio State women’s basketball team in a matchup against the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers, with fans pouring into the Schottenstein Center repping their scarlet and gray jerseys.
Of these fans, The Easterday family waited eagerly in line to scan their tickets. They were next up to hold their phones underneath the scanner and wait for it to mirror a green light, indicating their tickets had successfully been recorded.
Kristen Easterday’s family would now become one of the hundreds of new ticket holders for the 2022-23 women’s basketball season.
This past season, the Ohio State women’s basketball team reached its highest numbers in sold tickets and attendance per game in six years during a season in which women’s collegiate basketball saw record-breaking numbers across the board.
“It’s time, I think, more and more people are catching on to what a great game all people can play, whether it’s men or women on the court,” Easterday said. “The talent of some of these women is just incredible, and I think it’s helped elevate some of that national conversation.”
Sarah Precht, senior director of ticketing services at Ohio State, said she’s worked with the women’s basketball team since the 2014-15 season. There was a lot of excitement and changes made during the 2022-23 season surrounding women’s basketball, Precht said, which included the women’s team’s involvement in various youth groups.
The Buckeyes partnered with Columbus City Schools and invited 4,000 people from the district to attend the women’s basketball game on Dec. 8 against New Hampshire.
This partnership likely attracted a younger fan base and contributed to the rise of ticket sales. Precht said the women’s team sold 54,980 regular-season tickets, excluding their last game against then-No. 7 ranked Maryland. This number increases when factoring in complimentary tickets such as personal seat license programs and player guest tickets that are provided at no charge, Precht said.
“With complimentary tickets, we had over 82,000 tickets, but actual tickets sold were 54,980 as of Feb. 23,” Precht said.
This was the highest number the ticketing office has seen since the 2016-17 season, although Precht said there was a decrease in tickets purchased after the pandemic.
The average number of tickets sold per game during the 2022-23 season was a little over 3,400 and 5,100 with the addition of complimentary tickets, Precht said. Ohio State finished fourth in the Big Ten and 14th in the country in total attendance this season with 101,233 fans, according to the NCAA,
“ The Big Ten’s been pulling in a lot of big numbers this year,” Precht said.
Five Big Ten schools within the Division 1 women’s basketball category landed a spot in the top 15 for attendance, as Iowa came in at No. 2 with over 200,000 total fans.
Ohio State sold out its first and only game of the season against the Hawkeyes featuring 2023 Naismith Player of the Year, Caitlin Clark. Precht said the arena reached its maximum capacity of 9,368 sellable tickets.
Although Iowa handed the Buckeyes their first loss of the season after starting a program-best 19-0, many fans left the arena in awe of the electric performance and atmosphere they were a part of, including Jasmine McMoore, a fourth-year in sport industry.
“It was a crazy environment,” McMoore said. “And I honestly love it. I love environments where it’s just competitive, it’s fun. Everybody’s enjoying themselves and we’re all just trying to cheer on our team.”
McMoore, who has been a member of the official student section of Ohio State Athletics — “Block O” — since her freshman year, said it was the first time she’s seen so much support and interest for women’s basketball at Ohio State.
She credits Block O for providing students an opportunity to promote women’s basketball along with the “great talent” of the players, such as Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Cotie McMahon.
Precht said the women’s basketball team averaged 3,400 fans per game, which was approximately 1000 more fans compared to last season – 1,900. There have not been any structural changes made to The Schott, but Precht said the administration decided during the 2019-20 season to keep the terrace closed to create a better atmosphere in the building.
Precht said the highest attendance for a women’s basketball game at Value City Arena was in 2005 against Penn State, with 17,525 people attending the regular-season game. It’s likely the sellout crowd against Iowa will be the maximum capacity the building ever reaches for a game, she said.
“That was an anomaly that time,” Precht said. “So, our attendance in 2005, that’s the highest attendance we’ve ever had in the building for women’s basketball.”
Easterday said her family became first-time season ticket holders for Ohio State women’s basketball last season. Her family’s interest in basketball grew over the last few years and after watching the Buckeyes on television, Easterday said her family of five decided to purchase two season tickets
Easterday said this was her family’s first time buying season tickets for a women’s sports team. She said the experience was “awesome,” and all three of her children enjoyed going to the games.
“I thought it was a 10 out of 10,” Easterday said. “I was always excited when it was my turn to go to the game because we traded it off. But the kids enjoyed it. It was a good time to spend with the kids and it was just a fun atmosphere.”
With the return of senior guard Jacy Sheldon and the Buckeyes’ run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament in March, high expectations await the team next season. Precht said she hopes more people will become involved in women’s basketball because it improves both the student-athlete and fan experience.
“I think as the years go on, the more people that we can get to know about women’s basketball and then become a part of this passionate atmosphere, I think the better,” Precht said.