Louisville Basketball’s attendance has been suffering during the 1st eight games of the 2017-18 season. A lot has happened with the program over the past 3 seasons, the Katina Powell scandal, missing the 2016 NCAA Tournament as a result of that scandal and eventually the FBI probe that has seen the majority of the coaching staff terminated in the wake of that scandal.
(ALL ATTENDANCE METRICS IN THIS PIECE REFLECT LOUISVILLE’S FIRST 8 HOME GAMES OF EACH SEASON IN THE KFC YUM! CENTER)
Scandal fatigue is real. Louisville Basketball through its first 8 games of the 2017-18 season is averaging an attendance of 18,089 which is down from its previous low (through 8 games) of 19,667 (-1578) from a year ago (2016-17). Before the Katina Powell news broke on October 2, 2015 Louisville Basketball averaged attendance of 20,966.4 in the KFC Yum! Center’s first 5 seasons. Since the Katina Powell situation came to light the program has steadily lost its attendance heft in the first 8 games of each season in the wake of that scandal and other university related black eyes. The 2017-18 season early returns seem to reflect a breaking point within the fanbase, but when will they come back (if they come back)?
Now before we go too far down the rabbit hole on this let me point out: 18,089 WOULD HAVE RANKED 4th IN THE NATION FOR 2016-17 OVERALL ATTENDANCE AVERAGE ahead of programs like North Carolina, Kansas, Indiana, Michigan State, Arizona. In fact the only programs that had attendance higher than Louisville’s 2017-18 pace of 18,089 last year were Kentucky, Syracuse & Louisville itself. That’s without the meat of the ACC schedule remaining on the docket where Louisville will undoubtedly raise its average above and beyond its current pace of 18,089.
Charted History of Yum! Center Average Attendance in 1st 8 Games Of Each Season
It is not surprising that the highest attendance (through the games first 8 games of the season) thus far came when the KFC Yum! Center was brand new. Louisville settled after the initial season right in the 20,750-20,880 range for the next 4 seasons.
2010-11 KFC Yum Center Opens. Highest Average to Date
2011-12 Improbable Final Four Run, 1st year (of 4) of the 20,750-20,880 average
2012-13 NCAA National Champions
2013-14 American Athletic Conference, 1st year following NCAA Championship
2014-15 Begin ACC Play, Highest Average 1st 8 game attendance since Yum! Opened
2015-16, Shortly after the Katina Powell news was the first move off those measurements when attendance slipped by 788 fans per game from the year prior.
2016-17 Cards saw another drop of 421 in attendance from the 1st 8 games of the year. James Ramsey resigned Summer of 2016, University had rampant administration issues during this off-season.
2017-18 FBI Probe. Pitino, Coaching Staff & Jurich Dismissed. David Padgett Named Interim Head Coach.
It is also important to note that attendance at sporting events has been in decline nationally since HD television and cable rights expansion that have put virtually every sporting event on a watchable platform from the comfort of your home. Louisville, however, has been immune to such declines in basketball (and football) until now.
|1st 8 Home Games Average Attendance||21615||20756||20826||20759||20876||20088||19667||18089|
|Record At Time of 8th Home Game||7-0||8-0||12-1||9-1||10-0||8-1||10-1||7-2|
|Losses||#5 Duke||#24 UNC||#3 Michigan State||#20 Baylor||
NR Purdue/NR Seton Hall
So What Can UofL & Its Fans Do?
The simple response is: Go to games. Put a winning product on the floor. Get to the ACC part of the schedule.
But it’s more complicated than that. Louisville Basketball fans & fans of the University need to fall back in love with their school. The community is down and its depressed. There are segments. People mad about the events that have happened, people mad at Rick Pitino, people mad about Rick Pitino, people mad at Tom Jurich, people mad about Tom Jurich. Then there are fans & alumni that are angry and have distrust for the indiviudals and groups currently in charge of the University because of the continued lack of transparency and motive from the President’s Office and the Board of Trustees.
So to summarize. The fans, alumni, students and University community at large are fractured.
To start, Louisville MUST UNIFY. Attendance is down. That’s obvious to see. What’s happening at the University level and its donors? New students? What impact is this having for athletics donations?
Maybe Basketball attendance isn’t exactly a referendum of what is happening at the university at large, but it is a symptom of scandal fatigue. Louisville must find a way to rally. Vince Tyra is a guy worth rallying around. So is David Padgett. Louisville Basketball has 4 of its native sons on roster and a former great player as its head coach. There is a lot to like here…… but other than just rallying there are mechanisms in place that can be made better.
Louisville’s goal has been to maximize revenue. Which is fine. But Louisville Basketball needs to become a ‘Can’t Miss’ event again. It could achieve that by going backwards in time and reviving a lot of the in-game traditions that have fallen by the wayside. As Louisville attempted to climb up the ladder of collegiate athletics and had to leverage the breaks in the action with sponsorships, many of its traditions have faded. But there is no reason and no added atomsphere value in throwing peanuts or T-Shirts into the stands. We have to find a way to get fans to be PRESENT and we already have a great many things in place: The Pep Band, the spirit squads, the students and the fans.
Louisville’s intro video right now is about the fans. The faces change and yet the fans have just kept coming….. that’s the idea right? They came to the Armory, they came to Freedom Hall, they parked in that crazy parking lot that would have worked really well if only the security guards would have gotten out of the way. They came despite weather and sometimes despite how good the team was. The fans came and they brought their future generations to enjoy roasted nuts and Louisville Basketball. And then, when everyone freaked out about parking and traffic downtown they still came…. and they found that the traffic was better and the basketball was too. Now they can eat dinner, walk over and find plenty of options for bourbon and basketball. Better than ever. Noon? 9:00? Fine. They came. They planned their weddings, special events, rescheduled birthdays and even funerals around Lousiville Basketball. It’s been the one constant in our lives, time has changed who & where but we mark the time with Cardinal Basketball. It’s a part of who we are, it’s where we bond together, it reminds us of our loved ones. And they will come back…..
Louisville Basketball wants to reignite its love affair with its fans then we need to reconnect and make those winter nights about the people who are in the stands and the players and coaches who are on the floor. There will be more bad news, there will be losses, and that’s fine. But we’ve got to find trust, we have to find excitement and at that time Louisville basketball & its fans has to find its heart again. There is passion there for Louisville basketball. It’s just waiting.
|FBI Investigation Began 9/26/17||2017-18||2016-17|
|11/12/17 vs. George Mason||18304||11/11/16 Evansville||21129|
|11/17/17 vs. Neb Omaha||18112||11/14/16 William & Mary||19314|
|11/21/17 vs. So Illinois||18046||11/17/16 Long Beach St (Moved to 4 pm on Thurs for Houston FB game)||14337|
|11/24/17 vs. St. Francis||17524||11/30/16 Purdue||21841|
|12/3/17 vs. Seton Hall||19244||12/7/16 So Illinois||18894|
|12/6/17 vs. Siena||17215||12/10/16 Texas Southern||18152|
|12/9/17 vs. Indiana||20030||12/17/16 Eastern Kentucky||20889|
|12/11/17 vs. Bryant||16236||12/21/16 Kentucky||22783|
|Katina Powell New broke 10/2/15||2015-16||Begin ACC Membership||2014-15|
|11/13/15 Samford||20347||11/17/14 Jacksonville St||20479|
|11/17/15 Hartford||18910||11/21/14 Marshall||21661|
|11/21/15 North Florida||20413||11/24/14 Savannah State||19514|
|11/24/15 St. Francis Brooklyn||19112||11/26/14 Cleveland State||20887|
|12/5/15 Grand Canyon||20380||12/2/14 Ohio State||22784|
|12/12/15 E. Michigan||20649||12/5/14 FIU||20541|
|12/16/15 Kennesaw State||19288||12/14/14 UNC- Wilmington||20913|
|12/19/15 Western Kentucky||21606||12/23/14 Cal St. Northridge||20231|
|American Athletic Year||2013-14||National Championship||2012-13|
|11/9/13 Charleston||20938||11/11/12 Manhattan||20921|
|11/12/13 Hofstra||20112||11/15/12 Samford||20016|
|11/15/13 Cornell||19834||11/18/12 Miami (OH)||20258|
|11/29/2013 Southern Miss||21416||12/1/12 Illinois State||19816|
|12/4/2013 UMKC||20269||12/8/12 UMKC||20074|
|12/7/2013 La-Lafayette||20141||12/19/12 FIU||21411|
|12/14/2013 WKU||22027||12/29/12 Kentucky||22810|
|12/17/2013 Missouri State||21335||1/2/13 Providence||21305|
|Final Four Season||2011-12||Yum! Center Opens||2010-11|
|11/11/11 UT-Martin||20485||11/16/10 Butler||22723|
|11/13/11 Lamar||19842||11/20/10 Jackson St||22289|
|11/22/11 Arkansas State||20323||11/22/10 Chattanooga||21191|
|11/25/11 Ohio||21334||11/27/10 Marshall||21262|
|11/28/11 Long Beach St||20468||12/1/10 FIU||20866|
|12/2/11 Vanderbilt||22728||12/4/10 So Alabama||21048|
|12/7/11 IUPUI||20604||12/8/10 San Francisco||21049|
|12/10/11 Fairleigh Dickinson||20264||12/11/10 UNLV||22489|