It is unusual for a Division I school with both a football team and a men’s basketball team to generate more ticket sales revenue from the latter. Only 11 of 102 FBS public schools in our college sports finances database fit this description. Teams from two of those schools made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this season: San Diego State and Connecticut.
UConn takes the outlier label one more step, because it is the only school in the country whose women’s hoopers also out-perform its football team in ticket sales. The Huskies women’s basketball team’s ticketing revenue was $2.4 million in 2021-22, more than double its football team’s $1.1 million. Meanwhile, every other FBS school earned at least three times the ticket sales revenue from football as it did from women’s basketball.
The UConn women’s basketball team has eclipsed $2 million in ticket sales in each of the past four seasons in which fan attendance was permitted, but no other program has surpassed $1.5 million in a single year during that span. The last time another public school’s women’s basketball team earned more ticketing money than UConn in a pre-COVID season was 2014-15, when Tennessee topped the list.
The Huskies won the national championship six times in the eight years between 2009 and 2016, and the team has advanced to the Final Four in every season since. The football team, meanwhile, hasn’t had a winning record since 2010 and finished 1-11 in 2021.
During UConn’s recent title drought in women’s basketball, however, other programs around the country have seen ticket sales growth that UConn has not. The Huskies earned $2.40 million from ticket sales in 2021-22 versus $2.41 million in 2017-18, while the average women’s Power Five program increased its revenue in that category 25.7% over those four years, from $273,000 to $343,000.
Two universities stand out. After seven straight losing seasons from 2011-12 to 2017-18, Arizona launched a run of success, starting with winning the women’s NIT tournament in 2019 under head coach Adia Barnes, and followed that up with a national championship game appearance in 2021. Postseason wins subsequently attracted fans, as the Wildcats brought in $961,000 in ticket sales last year, more than double their pre-pandemic total.
LSU saw an even more dramatic jump in women’s basketball ticketing revenue in its first season under new head coach Kim Mulkey in 2021-22, when the Tigers finished 26-6 and won an NCAA tournament game for the first time in eight seasons. The school raked in $867,000 in ticket sales in the process, up from only $101,000 in 2019-20.
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