For Friday’s print edition of The Post, I put together a story about the attendance woes nearly every ACC team is going through this year, continuing a four-year trend of declining attendance for the conference.
As of Thursday, the league’s average attendance is 9,403, which would be the lowest figure since 1985. In fact, nine of the conference’s 12 men’s basketball programs have sent their attendance fall from this time last year.
But no team in the ACC has suffered more of a drop-off in paid attendance since last year than Virginia Tech. The Hokies are averaging just 8,042 fans per game this year, 1,615 fewer than this time last season.
Last month, when Florida State visited Cassell Coliseum, just 7,256 paid to come see the game – a record low for a conference game since Virginia Tech joined the ACC in 2004. And for those who have been going to games, the listed attendance has dwarfed the actual attendance for every game but the Hokies’ two sellouts this season against North Carolina and Duke.
Last week, Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver said in an interview he believes that an increase in the overall price of season ticket packages because of having four more home games than last year is the reason for the decline. Weaver said the packages went from $415 for the 2010-11 season to $490 this year, though the cost per game remained the same.
“I think next year it’ll pick up some and we’ll gain a little more simply because we won’t have as many home games,” said Weaver, who added that the “downturn economy” hasn’t helped. “I think that had something to do with it. When people see the season ticket price went from $415 to $490, that’s what happens when you have the home games. There’s not much you can do about it.”
Call me a cynic, but I’m not buying that more games and an increase of $75 is the main factor driving down attendance. Weaver said the school sold 6,410 season tickets two years ago when the average attendance was 9,272. This year, he said, the school sold 6,029. That’s a difference of 381 tickets.
So what about the other 1,234 who have stopped showing up this season? Well, like many ACC teams in recent years, the product on the floor — not more home games — seems to have had an effect on the box office.
Since upsetting No. 1 Duke last February before the 10th sellout crowd of the year at Cassell Coliseum, the Hokies are just 16-15. Virginia Tech is also only 10-7 in home games during that time span, and avoided the longest home losing streak (five games) since the 2001-02 season by beating Clemson last weekend.
But I’m curious how fans feel about all this. Is there a certain apathy creeping into the men’s basketball program after years of falling just short of making the NCAA tournament. Or do you agree with Weaver, that this is just a one-year lull? Let me know in the comments section below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.