Virginia was not only named one of 33 winners in the NCAA Division I "Pack the House" Challenge, but rather was selected as the NCAA's overall winner. All 12 of the ACC's member institutions participated in this nation-wide initiative, a program designed to build attendance in women's basketball.
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. One winner from each of the 32 conferences and one from a group of independent institutions were named. Selections were based on marketing plan creativity and attendance criteria.
And pack the house, they did. More than half of the Division I membership, 181 institutions, participated in the effort that attracted more than 511,000 fans.
Virginia drew a crowd of 11,895, a single-game attendance record, to its November 22 game against Tennessee, in what was termed – Hot Dog Day. The Cavaliers' plan, which resulted in more than 9,500 pre-sold tickets, included outreach efforts to the YMCA, Girl Scouts and the Parent Teacher Association; raffle prizes for students; and a hot dog and beverage giveaway. The marketing department also attempted to contact all 57,000 people on the school's fan database.
The original Hot Dog Night was Feb. 5, 1986, against then-ranked No. 15 North Carolina in University Hall, and drew a standing room only crowd of 11,174. That mark stood as the largest home crowd at a Virginia women's basketball game until this year's "Pack the House" challenge.
"We tried to hit every angle we could," said Marty Northcroft, the assistant athletics director of marketing and promotions at Virginia. "We even reached out to our men's basketball and football season-ticket holders. We wanted to give them the opportunity to purchase tickets at a special price."
Virginia's marketing department also bought numerous radio advertisements and contacted the program's kid's club fan group.
The NCAA will award prizes and donate $500 to the non-profit organization of each winning institution's choice.
"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."