Iowa men’s hoops seeks return to top 25 in attendance

Iowa's Kurt Looby is congratulated by a floor full of fans as the Hawkeyes leave the court after defeating Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Jan. 12, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Iowa's Kurt Looby is congratulated by a floor full of fans as the Hawkeyes leave the court after defeating Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Jan. 12, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY – The recent economic downturn only slightly affected Big Ten and national basketball attendance during the 2008-09 season.

According to figures released by the schools and the NCAA, national basketball attendance dipped by an average of 28 fans per game last year. Total attendance for Division I men’s basketball exceeded 27.7 million fans.

The Big Ten led the nation in average attendance for the 33rd straight year, according to the NCAA, with 12,519 fans per game. The Big Ten reported on its Web site that the league averaged 12,490 fans per game.

Overall, Iowa averaged 100 more fans this year (10,861) than during the 2007-08 basketball season. It is way off from the early part of the decade when Iowa averaged a sell-out (15,550). Iowa approached near-record lows in February, averaging less than 9,900 fans a home game. Iowa then dropped ticket prices for its final five home games to $10 each, giving the department a major lift in bodies, although not necessarily the bottom line.

“This past year, it (attendance) actually took a small dip up,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said. “So that’s a good sign.”

Iowa ranked No. 34 nationally in attendance, three spots up from No. 37 during the 2007-08 season. From 1978 through 2002, a 25-year period, Iowa ranked no lower than 17th nationally in attendance and finished in the top 10 nine times.

Iowa has started “Project 25,” in its push to boost attendance back into the national top 25. Iowa has not set its ticket prices for next year, but Barta said the school likely will lower the prices.

“Taking into account the economy, taking into account we’re rebuilding our program and getting back to where we want to be, we’re taking a look at lowering some of the ticket prices,” he said.

“When you look at what’s happening nationally, basketball over the last 10 years is in a downward trend. When you look at our season-ticket sales, we have gone through a six- or-seven-year downward trend.”

First-year Cyclone head basketball coach Ken Trickey (plaid suit, center) reacts to action on the floor of the Iowa Fieldhouse in Iowa City in 1974. Iowa won, 77-66. (Gazette photo)

First-year Cyclone head basketball coach Ken Trickey (plaid suit, center) reacts to action on the floor of the UI Field House in Iowa City in 1974. Iowa won, 77-66. (Gazette photo)

According to the Big Ten, four schools saw an annual decline in average overall attendance. Indiana’s overall attendance dropped by 2,545 fans a game, while Ohio State (1,125) and Illinois (1,119) each lost more than 1,000 fans per game in one season. Iowa’s overall attendance declined by 35 fans a game. The league’s overall average fell by 408 fans.

In league play, only three schools reported annual declines. Those schools include Indiana (2,200), Ohio State (1,286) and Illinois (310). Iowa saw its league average increase by 216 fans per game.

The figures do not take into account ticket promotions, such as Iowa dropping prices to $10 per seat – down from $27 and $22 a ticket – for the final five games.

Here’s an annual look at Iowa’s national ranking and average home attendance since 1978:

1978 – No. 16 (11,967); 1979 – No. 15 (12,482); 1980 – No. 11 (13,365); 1981 – No. 13 (13,365); 1982 – No. 12 (13,365); 1983 – No. 8 (14,817); 1984 – No. 8 (15,450); 1985 – No. 8 (15,060); 1986 – No. 9 (14,774); 1987 – No. 12 (13,663).

1988 – No. 10 (15,500); 1989 – No. 9 (15,500); 1990 – No. 12 (15,500); 1991 – No. 13 (14,874); 1992 – No. 13 (15,343); 1993 – No. 10 (15,215); 1994 – No. 9 (15,312); 1995 – No. 12 (15,158); 1996 – No. 11 (15,416); 1997 – No. 10 (14,586)

1998 – No. 14 (13,963); 1999 – No. 17 (14,173); 2000 – No. 13 (15,156); 2001 – No. 12 (15,500); 2002 – No. 12 (15,207); 2003 – No. 20 (13,235); 2004 – No. 23 (12,977); 2005 – No. 22 (11,900); 2006 – No. 25 (12,006); 2007 – No. 29 (12,196); 2008 – No. 37 (10,761); 2009 – No. 34 (10,861).

NOTE: Iowa competed at the UI Field House until 1983 before moving to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

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2 Responses to Iowa men’s hoops seeks return to top 25 in attendance

  1. J. says:

    i would have gone to more games to see lick and his hawks if they weren’t almost 30 bucks a ticket. I hope this year they lower the price and change the student section. if that happens carver would have a great game atmosphere.

  2. Jason says:

    maybe if they stop sucking so bad, people will start going to games once again.

    Crazy I know, but it just might work!

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