By now, anyone who follows the WNIT knows what to expect from Kansas State.
Give the Wildcats a game at Bramlage Coliseum and they are going to win.
That’s not just an assumption that came out of K-State winning four straight home games to reach the tournament’s semifinals, where it will host Utah at 7 p.m. Wednesday. It’s a fact.
K-State has never lost a home game in the WNIT, going a perfect 13-0 and winning the tournament in 2006.
“It means everything,” K-State basketball coach Deb Patterson said of hosting postseason games. “They are cheering us on. They are providing energy and intensity and an environment that buoys us up emotionally at this point in the season.”
The home games can feel like even more of a blessing when you consider they rarely make money for the athletic department and don’t attract big crowds until the final.
Fewer than 2,000 fans have turned out for any of K-State’s first four WNIT games, and K-State has paid the WNIT large sums to host the games.
“We basically might break even depending on ticket sales,” athletic director John Currie said. “We hope to break even, certainly, but our goal is to give the best possible advantage and support that we can to our program.”
He hopes K-State hosts another WNIT game before the season is over.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with making money,” Currie said. “The experience here in Bramlage in front of our fans is a great experience. Everything we play in, whether it is rowing or women’s tennis or whatever, we want to win.”
So what exactly do K-State administrators have to do to host games in the WNIT?
It is a complicated and competitive process. The WNIT consists of 64 teams arranged in a NCAA Tournament-style bracket, but teams are not aligned by seeds. Every game is played on campus, with schools bidding against each other to host. Senior associate athletic director Casey Scott said bids range from $6,500 for a first-round game to $15,000 plus a large chunk of projected ticket sales for the championship. The WNIT receives the bulk of ticket sales, while K-State keeps concession and parking sales.
The WNIT chooses host schools based on everything from projected attendance to quality of teams and arenas.
Currie says K-State tries to be “as aggressive as we can, within reason,” during the bidding process. Not only to land winnable home games, but to avoid the cost of playing on the road. K-State might break even playing at home, but there is no such hope on the road.
The WNIT offers travel reimbursements based on commercial airfare, but the Wildcats fly charter.
“If we had gone on the road, the net cost of that game to the department beyond reimbursements would have been about $40,000,” Currie said. “We would have chartered. Again, it’s a competitive advantage. Kids don’t miss class and spend less time at the airport. By playing at home we lost less money.”