Average fan attendance drops for the second season in a row


Madeline Bell

Coach Issac Brown watches the game on Feb. 2 against the Houston Cougars at Charles Koch Arena. The Shockers lost the game 70-61 against Houston.

Last year, The Sunflower reported that the average fan attendance at men’s home basketball games was at its lowest in over 20 years. This is aside from the 2020-21 season during the COVID-19 pandemic because the amount of fans allowed in the arena per game was limited. 

The average attendance, as of the Jan. 25 game against Tulane, has dropped to about 6,616 fans per game. This is  1,749 less than the average fan attendance from last season. 

Since he was hired in the summer of 2022, Director of Athletics Kevin Saal has made it a main goal of the athletic department to get fans in seats. He’s talked to donors, season ticket holders and student groups about how their gameday experience can be improved. 

At the men’s and women’s basketball annual media day in October, Saal said strong attendance support at home games starts with student attendance and engagement. 

“To me whether you are the general fan of a single game or a season ticket holder… [when] you are a student athlete, you get energy from your student section and from the band and the spirit squad so that piece is just incredibly important to what we do,” Saal said. 

To garner more interest in games, some general fan experience elements have been added. Light shows to music with fans’ phone flashlights and more halftime entertainment has been added as well. The athletics department also added game day emcees to help with promotions and promote energy. 

The average tickets scanned per game through 12 games is 3,303.6. Last season, the average tickets scanned through 10 games was 4,945.  According to the ticket office, “scans are the actual people that came through the gates with their ticket.  Sometimes staff is already in the building and there is some human error. 

The total amount of season tickets purchased for the 2022-23 season is 5,462. There were 7,706 season tickets purchased for the 2021-2022 season. 

Joe Stroud II, a student and founding member of the Shocker Faithful, said the halftime performances have been entertaining. On the contrary, he said that he thinks fan attendance has gone down because of the scheduling of games. 

A schedule of NCAA Division I men’s basketball games on CBS Sports shows that games on weekdays typically start around between the afternoon and 8 p.m. Games on weekends typically start at 10 a.m. and run throughout the evening. 

“I have missed a ton of games this season due to work and some of the games are scheduled at 8 or 9pm,” Stroud said. “And when people [have a] graveyard and third shift, it is difficult to attend when sleep is needed.” 

Rebecca Shaw has been going to home men’s basketball games since she was 12 years old. 

Shaw said she thinks there are many reasons why the attendance has dropped at games. One of those reasons is the team’s current slump. 

The Shockers are 12-10 overall so far and are 5-6 in conference play. They sit at a little above .500 in win percentage this season. During the 2021-22 season, the Shockers were not chosen for the NIT or NCAA Tournament after a first round loss in the American Athletic Conference tournament. 

“A big one is obviously, that the team isn’t having as much success this season as they have in the past,” Shaw said. “With ticket prices at Koch Arena, it’s hard for a family to buy tickets, especially when they haven’t been as highly anticipated as previous seasons.” 

Shaw also said hiring Isaac Brown seems to be a factor in lack of fan attendance. Brown was hired as the interim head coach and then head coach after the resignation of Gregg Marshall. 

“Some people were upset to see Marshall go, especially without much explanation or proof,” Shaw said. “With Isaac Brown you either love him or dislike him as the coach. Also, the player turnover rate is a huge factor. I believe the players have to do what is best for them, but it is hard to fall in love with a team that is constantly changing. Not having an NIL program really hurt the program because players were leaving to go to places that had it and felt like they could win.”

Fan Cris Anderson said he had to give up his season tickets two years ago due to an increase in SASO fees.  SASO fees stand for Shocker Athletic Scholarship Organization fees which are required of all season ticket holders. Anderson’s were over $750 at the time. 

“No one should have to pay 2000 for two seats and only about 16 home games,” Anderson said. “Additionally the charity laws changing caused my SASO contributions to be higher since my company could no longer match. The SASO fees are out of hand and I fear they will only get worse in this current market.”

Shaw said she believes fan attendance is important no matter how well the team is doing in a given season because it’s like being the 6th man on the bench. Meaning fans are meant to provide an extra boost of energy. 

“Win or lose I will support this team and won’t stop going,” Shaw said. “I will continue to show up and cheer them on and I hope others do the same.”