Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter was amazed with the 300 or so Iowa fans who sat behind his bench at The Citadel on Thursday. Some, like Mike Gatens — Matt’s father, made the trek from Iowa City. Several others live in the Southeast and comprised about 15 percent of the 2,024 people at McAlister Field House.
“I tell you what, they’re the best. It’s incredible,” Lickliter said of the road Iowa fans. “Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve received support. It’s exciting to see them. When they’re chanting and you know they’re there, it’s obviously helpful.”
“What I’d like to see is maybe the ones that live in our state come and fill Carver. That would be a neat thing. I appreciate the ones that are there, but I sure would like to get a few more in Carver.”
Lickliter took more of a love tap than a jab at the fans back home who tend to stay away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa’s home attendance has slowly declined since 2001, the last season with an average sellout of 15,500. Last year, Lickliter’s first at Iowa, the school averaged 10,761, the lowest since the arena opened in 1983.
This year Iowa has posted attendance numbers of 9,070 for the opener against Charleston Southern and 8,051 against Texas-San Antonio. It’s likely that between half and two-thirds of those numbers was actual attendance.
I’m going to leave the attendance drum to the perpetual beatings of other staff members. And there’s nowhere to go but up on that front. Other than the economy (OK, a really big one), there are few excuses left for Iowa fans who hated Steve Alford and didn’t like his players to stay away. Beginning Dec. 2, every Iowa game will be on nearly every television set in the state. No game starts later than 7:30 p.m.
This team is young, but local. Lickliter carries an “aw shucks” personality, hardly the high-ego manner that made Alford a borderline pariah by his final year. This team plays real hard and has some talent. The players will make mistakes this year. But they watchable. And they will get much, much better.