Baiting the hook

One local sportswriter used to telephone the UT sports information office to inquire about the pre-game media meal before deciding whether or not to attend that evening's Vol basketball game.

I swear this is true. I also swear the guy is not me.

The point is this: Food is a powerful inducement. Think about it:

If you want to attract fish, you bait a hook. If you want to attract mice, you bait a trap. The same approach – free food – also works if you want to attract fans. Pro baseball teams discovered decades ago that you can lure big crowds by offering a reduced rate on hot dogs, popcorn or beer.

Now the University of Tennessee is adopting a variation of this approach.

UT basketball – men's and women's – is not the monster draw this year it was in years past. The Vols and Lady Vols are young and struggling a bit. When you throw in winter weather, a lousy economy and High-Definition TV, the prospect of staying home and watching the games on television is becoming an increasingly attractive option.

That's why UT's marketing department has come up with the so-called "Texas Roadhouse Basketball Four Pack." For $60 you get four reserved seat tickets to a select Vol/Lady Vol home game, PLUS four entrees at Texas Roadhouse.

The folks at UT deserve props for this project. Realizing fans love devouring quality food as much as they love watching quality basketball, they've come up with a package designed to satisfy both appetites.

The "Four Pack" deal is available for a limited number of games, however. The men's games are LSU (Jan. 28), Georgia (Feb. 11) and Mississippi State (Feb. 25). The women's games are Ole Miss (Jan. 29), Georgia (Feb. 5), Duke (Feb. 16), Mississippi State (Feb. 22) and Vanderbilt (March 1).

Fans wanting tickets or more information should visit the Thompson-Boling Arena ticket office or call 865-656-1200.

Will the hoops/food package attract more fans to Vol and Lady Vol hoops? Probably. Free food is a great lure, whether you're talking about mouse traps, fish hooks or basketball arenas.

If you bait it, they will come.

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