And now Pendergast, who officially comes on staff as interim AD on Saturday, has taken the first step in that process by increasing the number of student tickets available.
For the first time since Gampel Pavilion opened in 1990, the number of tickets available to students inside the 10,027-seat, on-campus facility has been increased for the 2011-12 season. Pendergast, with the approval of UConn President Susan Herbst, authorized an increase of 200 tickets per game, increasing the student allotment from 2,500 to 2,700, he told UConnPlaybook.com.
More than 8,800 students submitted applications for those tickets. A lottery was held earlier this week by the UConn athletic department and the winners have been notified of their ability to acquire student season tickets.
"I'm hoping I will open up an email and somebody will say, ‘Thanks, I won. You did it for me,' " Pendergast said with a smile. "Nobody has called to complain either, so I guess I'm OK. I think that's a good incentive. It doesn't take care of 8,800, but it's a good sign, I think."
Pendergast is far from finished. He is already looking ahead to the 2012-13 season and planning a move that would create an atmosphere inside Gampel that could rival Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Breslin Center at Michigan State, Allen Fieldhouse at Kansas, or the O'Connell Center at Florida.
UConn officials are discussing moving the student seating from the baseline to the sideline for one non-conference game at Gampel.
"It's too late to do it this year," Pendergast said. "Everything had been squared away by the time I got here. Just take one game and move the student seating along the sidelines. Across from the benches – not behind the benches because we don't need that distraction – and do it like they do it at Duke."
Obviously, such a shift of the seating plan would displace donors who have worked hard within the ticket points system to acquire premium seats. Pendergast said those ticket holders would be compensated in some fashion that hasn't been determined.
"We'll give them some sign of saying thank you for doing this," Pendergast said. "If you are awarded seats that are across from the bench we are going to tell you – not ask you – that you are in for that game. We'll find a place for you to sit – someplace else.
"If the reception from those who are displaced – and others – is saying, ‘That was really cool,' maybe I can do it for [a game against] Pitt or Michigan State [in a future season]."
FIRST NIGHT SET
UConn has announced plans for the men's and women's programs to tip of the 2011-12 season with "First Night" on Friday, Oct. 14. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. The popular FanFest will be located outside the North entrance of Gampel Pavilion and on Fairfield Way. The FanFest will include inflatable games, food, music and other fun.
Doors to Gampel Pavilion will open at 6 p.m. There will be an autograph session with both teams, followed by performances from the band, cheer and dance squads, introductions of the players and coaches, a dunk and three-point contest and ultimate prize giveaways. The show will begin at 7 p.m. and end at approximately at 8 p.m. with a performance by the famous Simon Sez. There will also be surprise guest appearances by former UConn basketball greats.
CALHOUN TO SPEAK
UConn coach Jim Calhoun is always entertaining at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce breakfast. You can catch him there on Monday, Oct. 3. There is a lot to talk about coming off the national championship, heading into a new season with so much talent, the late addition of freshman star Andre Drummond, and UConn's options in realignment between the Big East and ACC.
The breakfast goes from 7:45 to 9 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Cromwell. Cost is $29 for non-members, $19 for members. More information and reservations can be made at www.middlesexchamber.com.
CELEBRATION SET FOR OCT. 6
UConn's celebration dinner to honor the 2011 NCAA men's basketball champions is on Oct. 6 at the Connecticut Convention Center.
According to UConn, today (Friday, Sept. 30) is the last day tickets and meal orders are available for purchase for this event, at which the team will receive their championship rings. Fans have until 5 p.m. Sept. 30 to call the UConn Athletic Development Foundation at 860-486-3863 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve seats.