Florida State basketball attendance zooms upwards, bests 1993.

April 27, 2011

In a season in which the team posted its best postseason performance since 1993, attendance for Florida State men’s basketball was even better. The 2010-2011 attendance figures released by the NCAA today show Florida State having the 6th best season-season increase in attendance in absolute terms, with an increase of nearly 2000 fans.  An average of 9327 fans attended Florida State’s home games; 139,904 total over 15 games. This total placed it 47th in the nation, only five spots behind the University of Florida, which has an arena equal in size (~12000 seats) , but a larger student body (~50,000 vs 40,000). The total tops the 1993 figure (which I presume to be the record) of 137,863, which was also a 15 game total. This is not quite an apple-apple comparison as I will explain later.

But first, I want to go back to two tweets during the NCAA title game. The tweets would have made a nice appendix to my “Florida State Men’s Basketball – Midget in conference and on campus” as they showed how relatively unattended FSU men’s basketball was compared to the other sports on campus. In 2009-2010, attendance at FSU men’s basketball games was 70th nationally. That compared unfavorably to women’s basketball (where attendance was 50th nationally), softball and women’s soccer (42nd and 16th), and football and baseball (20th and 8th, respectively).  The per game average of 7,336  put them not far ahead (eight positions, ~500/game) of Butler University, a much smaller school playing in a much smaller arena and fairly far behind Duke (17 spots, ~2,000 game), again a smaller school in a smaller arena.  Those stats show the difficulty Florida State faces in recruiting. Why go to a school where your sport is (relatively) less important than softball, when you can go somewhere basketball is far and away the biggest thing happening? The 2010-2011 attendance figures are a fairly decent improvement in this regard.

Besides the obvious boost that improved team performance provided, there were a few structural factors in the schedule that helped boost attendance. Whereas having home games against Duke and UNC, virtually guaranteed sell-outs, were givens in the 1993-2003 era, the expansion of ACC took away that guarantee. There are seasons in which neither squad comes to Tallahassee. This season, however, both teams  played in the Donald L. Tucker Center.  Also, on and off in the past 15 years or so, the game against Florida has been played on a neutral court in December. However, a recent trend has been to play the basketball game on the same weekend and at the same site as the football game. Such was the case this season, as both were in Tallahassee.   Such scheduling has always produced a sell-out as well.  Finally, there were no home games during the Christmas break as the team played in a tournament in Hawaii during the time period. The latter two advantages did not exist in 1993.

One advantage 1993, did have though, was a seating configuration  that netted roughly 1,000 more seats (the re-configuration that shrank capacity did have the advantage of bringing students closer to the court). That advantage was reflected in the higher attendance at the Duke and UNC games that year. However, the game against Florida, which was not in Tallahassee only had 9,099 fans! Why? It was played on January 2, one day after the ‘Noles played in the Orange Bowl!  The ’92-’93 schedule also had three  games during Christmas break, against Arkansas Little-Rock, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and South Florida (UMBC had a season low 5,285 fans in attendance). Had the season featured the advantages this past season possessed, its attendance would have been larger. Of course, if the arena still had 13,000 seats, this season’s attendance would have been higher still.

Despite the aforementioned improvement in seating configuration, the off-campus facility is routinely rated as one of the lowest in the Atlantic Coast Conference ( last and next to last in two recent reviews). One criticism repeated in both, though, a facility “often less than half-full”, is no longer valid. Out of fifteen games, only three had attendance below 50%. All were against non-conference teams and played on school nights.  Attendance for the 15 games follows.

Hartford 5252 (Sun Dec 5)

Stetson 5713 (Wed Dec 15)

Gardner Webb 5899 (Mon Nov 15)

Mercer 6215 (Tue Nov 23)

Clemson 7015 (Sun Dec 12)

University of North Florida 9562 (Sat Nov 12)

Wake Forest 9729 (Tue Feb 1)

University of Virginia 10266 (Sat Feb 12)

Ohio State University 10457 (Wed Nov 30)

North Carolina State 10517  (Sat Jan 15)

University of Miami 11531 (Sat Feb 26)

Boston College 11604 (Sat Jan 22)

University of Florida 12014 (Sun Nov 28)

University of North Carolina 12030 (Wed Mar 2)

Duke 12100 (Wed Jan 12)

Hat-tip to Brendan Loy, whose post boasting  that his local mid-major (for whom he blogged several games), Denver University,  also ranked in the top 10 for attendance increases, caused me to notice the improvement in FSU’s attendance.

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