Big Ten tournament a hot ticket

Big Ten tournament a hot ticket

In a few weeks, the University of Illinois will send out invitations to the first Big Ten men's basketball tournament.

If you're not a big donor, don't wait by the mailbox.

Like all of the other conference schools, Illinois' allotment of 1,600 tickets will go mostly to close friends of the program.

Members of the Fighting Illini Scholarship Fund's Loyalty Circle (minimum annual donation: $10,000) will get the first crack at the $200 all-session seats. When they're through, the biggest spenders of the Fighting Illini Scholarship Fund's Tribal Council (minimum annual donation: $3,000) likely will gobble up all the leftovers.

"We do not have a plan that includes anyone outside of those two clubs, based on the anticipated demand," UI ticket manager Mike Hatfield said.

Demand's high throughout the conference for tickets to the inaugural party, set for March 5-8 at Chicago's 23,000-seat United Center. Every school received the same number of tickets – Indiana's already out – and every school but one expects to run out fast.

"Hopefully, we'll take some bodies," Penn State ticket manager Bud Meredith said. "Our fans aren't used to that type of price tag."

Only $200, 10-game tickets are available, although you might be able to get a better deal outside the arena after the first night.

"You're going to have three teams that get beat on Thursday, and some of those (fans) are going to go home and want to get rid of their tickets," Hatfield said.

Any tickets Penn State can't get rid of in advance, Purdue would be happy to take. Schools have until Dec. 1 to let the Big Ten know if they'll have any extras, which will be redistributed among the other schools.

"We're not anticipating having to do that, though," Big Ten associate commissioner Mark Rudner said.

The Big Ten will keep about 1,000 tickets for TV types and corporate sponsors. Another 4,000 are reserved for suite holders.