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Murray's Mailbag: Should Nevada basketball raise season-ticket prices again?

Nevada fans
Nevada basketball fans have responded in record numbers despite increased season-ticket prices. Will the Wolf Pack raise prices again? (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

It wasn't a great weekend for the Nevada Wolf Pack. The Nevada baseball team got swept in a crucial series with Fresno State and now needs a minor miracle to get into the Mountain West Tournament, which it will host (it's still mathematically alive and in relatively decent shape considering its 11-16 MW mark). And Nevada softball lost its series with UNLV, giving the Silver State Series to the Rebels for the sixth time in seven seasons. But the Nevada basketball team got some good news today as Zane Meek committed to the Wolf Pack. Like usual, you mostly wanted to talk Nevada basketball, so let's jump into it with a question that could impact your bank account. Thanks, as always, for the questions.

(Note: If you're not seeing the tweets, it's probably because you're not using Google Chrome. Use Google Chrome).

That's a good (and tricky) question. I wrote a story on Nevada freezing football season-ticket prices and I did ask the Wolf Pack about basketball prices. The prices for 2019-20 haven't been set yet, so I'm sure this is a question the Wolf Pack is battling with as we type this. We should see set prices within a month. Nevada had set prices by mid-May last year. But Nevada has been ratcheting up prices at a pretty strong rate over the last four years. Here's a look at the price increase at each section from 2015-16 to 2018-19.

Courtside: $3,005 ---> $4,500 (up 49.7%)

Floor premier: $2,005 ---> $3,200 (up 59.6%)

Lower middle: N/A ---> $1,600

Lower center: $1,005 ---> $1,400 (up 39.3%)

Basket premier: $755 ---> $1,110 (up 45.7%)

Lower corner: $705 ---> $1,000 (up 41.8%)

Lower basket: $605 ---> $900 (up 48.8%)

Center concourse: $330 ---> $450 (up 26.7%)

Concourse: $230 ---> $280 (up 21.7%)

Plaza basket: $185 ---> $199 (up 7.6%)

On average, that's a 37.8 percent hike, including a 47.5 percent increase in the lower bowl. That's a pretty big booster over a four-year period. But Nevada also went from a bad Mountain West program to the best MW program in the process. And despite the increases, the Wolf Pack doesn’t have the MW’s most expensive season tickets (per last year's numbers). Nevada ranks third out of 11 MW schools in courtside season-ticket price behind San Diego State and Wyoming; fourth in average lower bowl season ticket price behind SDSU, UNLV and New Mexico; and third in average upper bowl season-ticket price behind SDSU and New Mexico. So the Wolf Pack could raise the prices with that information as a justification.

Hiring Steve Alford to replace Eric Musselman (and giving him a fully guaranteed 10-year, $11.6 million contract) gives Nevada ample space to argue it has to increase ticket prices to help pay for a coach of Alford's caliber (although Nevada is only paying him $500,000 in each of the next two seasons). Wolf Pack fans have gotten squeezed a little as the program has risen. The money increase is one thing if you're bringing in quality competition. But here's who Nevada has brought to Lawlor Events Center in non-conference action over the last four years as those prices have increased.

* BYU, Pacific, Little Rock, Cal Baptist, South Dakota State, Akron, Idaho, Rhode Island, Davidson, Illinois State, Radford, UC Davis, Loyola Marymount, Oregon State, Radford, Pacific (again), UC Irvine, Portland State, Holy Names, Fresno Pacific, Drake and Santa Clara.

Not. Very. Good. You're basically asking fans to pay $1,000 a seat minimum in the lower bowl for those teams. It's clearly working. Nevada sold out season tickets last year. It's hard to argue the arena was overpriced given that fact. And I do think Nevada will raise prices again. It makes sense to as you try and get as much money out of the base as possible to invest back into the program. Nevada football is struggling at the box office, so the Wolf Pack needs to maximize profits in men's basketball, the current cash cow. But there is a risk you could alienate your fan base by raising ticket prices too much too fast. I would go with a moderate increase, like 5 percent per seat, citing the fact Nevada ranks third or fourth in average ticket price depending on the section and trumpeting that increase is necessary to continue building the program.

There is no deadline for these things from an NCAA standpoint. Nevada could set a deadline, but that wouldn't behoove anybody at this stage. I guess the firm deadline would be August when school starts because the players must be enrolled in classes. But it's not like the NCAA portal closes at some point. It remains open forever. Nevada still has three in the portal in Lindsey Drew, Jordan Brown and Shamiel Stevenson. Drew's situation should be sorted out shortly, whereas Brown and Stevenson should drag out longer. With Nevada having plenty of scholarships remaining, there's no need to rush things, although I'm sure the Wolf Pack would love to have definitive answers sooner rather than later.

As for Steve Alford's recruiting so far, his main job was to get the current team to recommit and he's done that for the most part. The one big question mark is Brown. He also has added Kane Milling and Zane Meeks, and neither of those guys were drawing high-major offers, but Alford also got the job really late in the process. I wouldn't judge his recruiting ability based off this first class given how late he was hired. It was pretty slim pickings, and Milling and Meeks both seem like solid prospects.

In retrospect, it's pretty crazy to see how well Eric Musselman did in his first class. He signed Cameron Oliver, Lindsey Drew, Marcus Marshall and Jordan Caroline and added Leland King as a walk-on in his first class. That is three All-MW first-team honorees (Oliver, Marshall, Caroline), one All-MW defensive team pick (Drew) and although King didn't find a role at Nevada, he went on to win All-Big West first-team honors at UCSB. Musselman got a nearly three-week head start on Alford given the timing of his hiring, but that is one hell of a class no matter the circumstances, even more impressive given Musselman was hired two weeks before the second signing period opened.

Ben Parker, a writer with the Cal Rivals site, recently reported Brown is hearing most from Arizona, Kentucky, Arizona State, Cal, Saint Mary's and Louisiana Lafayette but hasn't narrowed his list as he focuses on finals. As I noted in previous Mailbags, I don't think you'll see any official visits until school is over. I did hear (unconfirmed, so more speculation than anything) that the Brown family was seen on one of the campuses listed above, but again I haven't confirmed that, so the tip could have been wrong, which is why I won't name a school. I still think Nevada makes the most sense because:

a) Brown wouldn't have to sit out a season

b) He'd get a ton of playing time this year as a featured piece

c) Steve Alford has a good history of using and developing big guys

d) Brown likes the city, campus and fans

e) He's not going to get recruited over at Nevada like he might at Kentucky

f) If it doesn't work out after this year, he could still transfer and have two years of eligibility at another school

Brown's situation is noted above, and I wouldn't be surprised if Lindsey Drew announced at tonight's Nevada basketball event he was returning to school for his senior season.

As for sushi, I don't like it, but we usually go to Tha Joint and I get chicken teriyaki. I didn't eat sea food as a kid so it makes me gag.

Here was my latest report. Nevada's non-conference schedule includes:

Home: Utah and USC

Road: Davidson and BYU

Neutral: Saint Mary's and three games in the Paradise Jam (potential opponents Cincinnati, Illinois State, Western Kentucky, Valparaiso, Fordham and Bowling Green)

That leaves up to five games to be scheduled, four of which I'm guessing will be at home against mid-level opponents.

Kuany Kuany has to be the priority. He's the highest-ceiling player Nevada has brought on an official visit during under Steve Alford and he has a strong relationship with 2020 four-star guard Zach Harvey, who was his teammate at Prolific Prep. The two took an unofficial together to Nevada in October. If Nevada can land Kuany, a talented player in his own right, it helps its chances with Harvey. Kuany is one of the top-25 unsigned players in the 2019 class, so he is a "must get" for the Wolf Pack.

Here were the results in our unscientific poll on who Nevada's starting quarterback should be.

It would appear Wolf Pack fans favor Malik Henry. But that shouldn't sway who Nevada puts on the field against Purdue. You play the quarterback who gives you the best chance to win now and in the future because nothing draws fans like wins. Nevada would likely get a small boost in attendance if it went with Henry for the opener (and announced it in advance, which I doubt it ends up doing anyway to keep some mystery for Purdue as the Boilermakers prep for the Pack). But any attendance boost would not justify picking Henry solely for that reason. Nevada does, however, need to increase its attendance this year, which will be tough given the home schedule. There's just not enough revenue being created by the program.

I made the case for each quarterback in my Week in 1,000 Words column last week. Needless to say, it's a huge decision. I'd go with Henry or Strong, which makes me feel bad for Solano, but tie goes to the younger players. If Henry can get all the way to the season opener without making any trouble and while maintaining his current level of play, it will be hard to keep him off the field. I do think the staff favors Solano right now, though.

He's not eligible because he never made a first-team All-America team, which is a dumb rule, but it's a rule. The only eligible FBS-era Wolf Pack players are Nate Burleson and Brett Roy, and they're not getting in.

I'll take a Ho-Ho.

Craig Neal was covered by the Albuquerque Journal's Geoff Grammer when he was first an assistant under Steve Alford and later his successor as the team's head coach. Here's what Grammer had to say about the nickname: "Back in high school in Washington, Ind., he was over 6-feet tall and weighed maybe 150. Played so fast his skinny arms and legs flayed around like noodles, they said. It stuck when he got to college and I think (Dick) Vitale called him Noodles on air once during a GaTech game."

I was called Furry Murray in high school. Not that off the wall, but apparently I was furry. Better than Furby Murray.

If it was going to happen, odds are it would have by now, but that doesn't mean it won't. Nevada still has three scholarships open, at minimum, for this year's class. That will probably end up being four scholarship. The Wolf Pack shouldn't press to fill those just to fill them given how slim the pickings are right now. It wouldn't be a bad idea to hold one or two back for midyear transfers, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to give one to Townsell for a full year's audition in front of the new staff. It really depends on how many scholarships are left after this recruiting wave, which the staff won't have a firm idea of for a few more weeks. I think Townsell is worth a one-year scholarship, and could be nice depth for a team that currently has only seven committed to players, but I also can see why the staff would be holding back until it exhausts all of its option in the 2019 recruiting class.

I have not directly asked any players this question, so it is all speculation, but you'd have to be pretty naïve to not know Eric Musselman was open (and eager) for a jump to the Power 5 level. That being said, Nevada basically used eight players last season and six of them were fifth-year seniors, so I doubt they cared too much about Musselman's longevity at Nevada. I don't attribute any of Nevada's late-season demise (5-4 after starting the season 24-1) to players worrying about whether their coach was leaving town after their eligibility expired. It's not like he was preparing any less or driving the team with any less vigor. The Wolf Pack was undone by: (a) not being able to shoot very well; (b) injuries/fatigue; (c) decreased ball movement/trust in each other; (d) the schedule getting tougher at the end of the season; and (e) not really being quite as good as most people thought.

* Mark Fox going after the officials following a 2007 WAC Tournament loss, which led to a police report being filed.

* Tyrone Hanson + Halloween Party = Three People Being Shot to Death

* The Wolf Pack Trio (Brandon Fields, London Giles, Ahyaro Phillips) getting arrested following a trip to Scheels

* Ahyaro Phillips bringing a gun on campus to confront football players

Damn, there's a lot of material there.

I don't think that was ever reported. I think Musselman was asked if David Cunningham would make a good coach and he said he would welcome him as a grad assistant if Cunningham wanted to take that path, which he had not expressed up to that point.

The Rockets followed by the Bucks followed by the 76ers. But I still have the Warriors winning it all. It'd be a joke if the Warriors don't win the title given the talent on the team. And I think Kevin Durant is gone after the season ends. He has to win a title somewhere else to validate him taking the easy path the last three seasons.

1. Black Panther (simply great and had a villain you could sympathize with)

2. Avengers: Infinity War (the best of the four Avengers movies because of the action and Thanos)

3. Thor: Ragnarok (just a beautiful film with the classic Jeff Goldblum)

4. Deadpool (the funniest Marvel movie by far)

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (that soundtrack!)

6. The Avengers (have to respect the original)

7. Avengers: End Game (a great ending to the series even if the first two hours were just OK)

8. Thor (my favorite comic book character)

9. Captain America: Civil War (there's a great darkness to this movie that sets up all that's to come)

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (Tom Holland makes a solid Spidey)

Here's an explainer on why airplane captain seats are on the left.

Here's an explainer on why boat captain seats are on the right.

Google is a magnificent thing.

My Masters degree thesis was called, "Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong: Framing and race in the sports pages." It usually takes two semesters to do a thesis, but I did it in one since I didn't want to be in school anymore. I have no idea how long it took. Probably like 300 hours. It's 125 pages long.

Basically, I did a content analysis of eight national newspapers over a three-year period looking at how Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong's PED suspicions were covered. At the time of my work, neither had tested positive for anything or admitted to doping (that would change after I published my work). But my thesis found two major differences in the coverage of basically two identical situations:

a) Armstrong's potential doping was framed more as a sport-wide issue (everybody in cycling dopes) than an individual issue (Armstrong is a cheater) whereas Bonds was the opposite (it's an individual issue and not a sport-wide issue). Armstrong's coverage used thematic framing rather than episodic framing whereas Bonds' was the opposite. Basically Bonds was blamed more for his alleged cheating.

b) Stereotypical racial attributes were associated with the coverage of both stars. Armstrong was described as hard working, smart, team-oriented, a great leader, etc. while Bonds was described as naturally gifted, moody, living off his talent rather than his work ethic, etc. White athletes are typically given more glowing characteristics, and this was true in the coverage of these two stars.

I'm not sure if there are any copies of my thesis in public. They usually keep one copy of every thesis at the Reynolds School of Journalism. You could ask them. I have one at my house. It was solid enough it was published in the Journal of Communication and later in a book about sports coverage. It was pretty fun despite how much work it took.

Children's books. I feel like I could write a good children's book.

The Nevada basketball team because people care about that team and it's more fun to write about a team people care about.

And I like watching volleyball. Real fast-paced.

There aren't nearly as many. You basically have the NFL, the CFL or the Arena League right now. You had the AAF but that went belly up real quick. NFL Europe didn't last, either. The XFL comes next year, but I'm not sure how long that will last. It's basically NFL, CFL or bust as far as making a living wage. You have way more options in way more countries in basketball. Plus you won't damage your brain in that sport.

A few thoughts on this.

a) I've written five stories about Nevada athletes getting arrested in the last calendar year, including one that was nearly identical to Brown (a player getting arrested after not paying off a ticket and then getting pulled over again). It is a part of my job, and news organizations all over the nation report on such arrests. If it happened in Boise State, the Idaho Statesman would have done a story on it. If it happened in Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Journal would have done a story on it. This is normal protocol.

b) While it is a part of my job, it's the least favorite part of my job. I don't like writing about people getting arrested, especially for such minor events. But I cover the good, the bad and the ugly of Nevada athletics, which includes writing about players getting arrested at times. It sucks, but it's in the job description. I literally remember crying once when I saw one particular person got arrested, but I still did a story on it. I'm human. I like a lot of the people I cover. But I still have to do my job.

c) I don't mind debating the newsworthiness of the story over social media, although I'd prefer to do it in civil terms. A couple of people said I was trying to brand Daniel Brown a criminal, and if you actually read the story you would know that wasn't true. I covered the event without opinion or sensationalizing the issue.

d) Some argued I wrote the story to try and generate page views so I could make money. That was idiotic. I don't get paid on how many page views I deliver and I have a contract through the end of 2022. I have job security. I don't need to try and generate page views through nefarious means.

e) I don't mind Wolf Pack players coming to the defense of a teammate, again as long as it is civil. I did have a multiple Nevada players DM me to apologize for their teammates attacking me. I also had multiple Nevada players apologize via DM after the fact while saying they acted emotionally and/or irrationally. Some even deleted their tweets.

f) I could have done without a family member sending me a "You reap what you sow" DM that could have been interpreted as a threat. It was not personal for me. I was just doing my job.

g) I hope nobody judges Brown for getting arrested for failing to pay a ticket. It was a mistake but a minor one. By all accounts, he's a well-respected teammate and person. I would guess 95 percent of the people who read the story thought, "Oh, he should have paid his ticket" and moved on with their lives. The back-and-forth on Twitter only inflamed the situation and elevated it in magnitude (Streisand Effect), which hurts Brown in the long run.

h) If a Nevada players get arrested in the future, I'll report it. I won't like it, but I'll do it.

i) And if I ever get arrested for anything, I'd write about it, too, because it's not fair to hold Nevada to a different standard than I hold myself to.

It was the right call. This isn't NASCAR. You can't bump and grind with 850-pound horses running 40 miles per hour. The horses are already in enough danger as is. It is a bummer because Maximum Security was the best horse on that day, but you have to abide by the rules. And it's cool seeing a long shot win, although nobody knew he won when the finish line was crossed.

* Dodgers World Series game (because I'm a noted Dodgers fan)

* Bills Super Bowl win (but that will never happen because the Bills suck)

* Italy World Cup final (because I'm Italian and I don't root for the USA in soccer)

The Masters would be pretty cool, too.

I don't know but I'm guessing it's a team bus for a trip to Anaheim and a plane for a trip to San Diego. That's a long drive from Los Angeles. Either way, it ends with the Dodgers winning the series.

What about just the existence of Las Vegas? Putting 2.2 million people in the middle of the desert isn't the brightest of ideas. That water source is going to go dry pretty soon.

And I have no opinion on the Three Stooges versus Abbott and Costello. Not familiar enough with their work. I'll take Jim Carrey for my comedy. Somebody should ask me for a Mt. Rushmore of comic actors for next week's Mailbag.

I'll take a classic shredded beef taco and shredded beef burrito. Can't go wrong with a good taquito, either. Mexican food is so good ... until the next morning.

If we're talking tacos, I like my odds actually.

I gave my top-10 Reno/Sparks Mexican restaurants last week (although I forgot La Fuente). I'm sorry you lost your favorite.

(RIP Ernie's All-American Burger.)

No I did not because I do not like margaritas. Too sour. I don't care if piña coladas originated in Puerto Rico, either. I will take any excuse to drink one, and Cinco de Mayo was a convenient excuse. In fact, I'm off to drink another piña colada right now. See y'all next week.

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