PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania women's basketball team was one of 33 winners in the NCAA Division I “Pack the House” Challenge. There is one winner from each conference and the Quakers claimed the Ivy League title with their highest single-game attendance total since 2005. The NCAA will donate $500 to the nonprofit organization of each winning institution’s choice.
The Quakers, who have now raised a total of $6,647 for charities this season, will donate the $500 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Assistant coach Kara Cassidy, who's close friend lost two siblings to Cystic Fibrosis, added the foundation to Penn's Charge for a Cure Initiative when the team chose organizations in the fall.
'Pack the House' winners were selected based on marketing plan creativity and
attendance criteria. “Pack the House” is a national effort in which conferences and institutions compete to build attendance. NCAA Division I women’s basketball marketing staffs selected a home game and designated that date as a “Pack the House” game with the goal of setting an attendance record. Penn selected the Feb. 12 matchup with Columbia.
More than half of the Division I membership – 178 institutions – participated in the effort that attracted more than 554,000 fans. Sixty-nine programs, including Penn, surpassed their
single-game attendance highs from last year. Penn hosted a season-best 707 fans which was the most since the 2009 season finale when more than 4,000 saw the Quakers take on Princeton. However, that was a doubleheader with the men's teams, meaning the last time Penn had such a turnout in a single-game format was Feb. 26, 2005 - also against Columbia.
“We believe this initiative has served as a catalyst to increase attendance, create excitement and enhance exposure for our women’s basketball programs,” said NCAA Vice President of Division I Women’s Basketball Sue Donohoe. “Institution personnel committed a great deal of time, effort and resources to this program and the results were extremely positive. This program provides great ‘best practices’ and examples of success for institutions that are seeking to ‘grow’ women’s basketball and these success stories will continue to strengthen efforts in the future.”
The ideas to market the games were as diverse as the membership itself. At Penn, for example, the Quakers held their annual Pink Zone event at the game. Fans were encouraged to wear something pink, pink pom-poms were given away to those in attendance and there was free pizza for Penn students. Raffle tickets were sold as well to give fans the opportunity to win season tickets, a basketball signed by the team and a number of different prizes. The team also sold pink Penn women's basketball t-shirts at the game. In addition, there was an "Ask The Expert" panel from the Rena Rowan Breast Center so fans could ask any questions they had about breast cancer screenings, treatment and survivorship.
Winners of the 2010-11 NCAA “Pack the House” Challenge are:
America East – Binghamton University
Atlantic Coast – Duke
Atlantic Sun – Florida Gulf Coast
Atlantic 10 – Rhode Island
Big East – Louisville
Big Sky –Sacramento State
Big South – Gardner-Webb
Big Ten – Michigan State
Big 12 – Kansas State
Big West – Pacific
Colonial – Old Dominion
Conference USA – Houston
Great West – Utah Valley
Horizon – Green Bay
Ivy – Pennsylvania
Metro Atlantic – Marist
Mid-American – Central Michigan
Mid-Eastern – South Carolina State
Missouri Valley – Wichita State
Mountain West – Air Force
Northeast – Central Connecticut State
Ohio Valley – Eastern Illinois
Pacific-10 – Oregon
Patriot – Army
Southeastern – Auburn
Southern – Samford
Southland – Texas State