Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Will the potential loss of the NBA season help CU?

Allow me to digress back into the world of CU basketball...

Non-conference attendance has always been a black mark on the overall profile of CU basketball.  While Buff Nation can often move themselves to show up for games vs high-profile conference rivals, pick any night in November or December, and more than likely the CEC will only be 30% full... or less.
Even the great Alec Burks played in front of a lot of empty seats in November and December.
The list of rationales given for the lack of attendance is nearly as extensive as the number of empty seat-backs.  Since I latched onto the CU basketball program in 2002 (my freshman year), I've heard the following list of excuses: the team's not very good, the opponent's not very good, I've never even heard of the opponent, I don't like the coach, it's cold outside, the CEC isn't a good environment to watch a game (bullshit), I'm more focused on football, I don't like basketball, I've got work in the morning, etc.  I hear less whining from 5-year-olds.

The end result is, on an average night in non conference play over the past 9 seasons, you would find barely over 3,500 fans in attendance.  Pathetic.

The fact is, I think CU fans have it rather good.  Parking is free, tickets are cheap (often for as little as $1), and the team is usually feisty enough to play hard for a few minutes.  If you care, even a little bit, about your university, there should be nothing keeping you from attending a CU game.

Regardless, I think there's hope on the horizon for attendance in non-conference play.

In case you haven't been paying attention, the NBA is very close to abandoning at least part of the '11-'12 season.  The league has postponed training camps, and begun the process of canceling preseason games.  Additionally, players from around the league are abandoning the sinking ship for lucrative contracts overseas.  While few "name" players have jumped to European and Asian clubs, some big names, like Kobe, have plenty of options when the time is right.  Essentially, the players are in full-on "the season isn't happening" mode.

While this situation isn't good for the overall health of basketball, it could end up being good news for CU's non-conference attendance woes. Should the NBA's regular season get canceled, either it it's entirety or a partial cancellation, many of the hoop junkies who are used to streaming towards the Pepsi Center may turn their lonely eyes to Boulder.  Families looking for a night of hoops in late November/early December may find the basketball Buffs to be a cheap and viable alternative.  At a time when the greed of owners and players alike may cause sports fans in Denver to throw their hands up in disgust, there may very well be a niche market arising for hard-working "amateur" athletes.  At least part of that NBA crowd could be ripe for the taking, at least in the interim.

Would the resulting increase in attendance be massive?  Absolutely not, but would it surprise me to see a 15% bump in overall non-conference attendance?  Not in the slightest.

To put that 15% in perspective, over the last 4 years (Coach Bz era and the Coach Boyle epoch), CU has averaged just over 4k fans per non-conference night (4,078).  A 15% bump (>600) would see that average attendance come close to 4,700 people.  I think that's a fair guess-timate.

Of course, you can't expect to see that across the board.  5,500 people aren't going to bust down the door to see CU play Fort Lewis College on opening night.  But, could sizable crowds of 6-7k show up to see the Buffs take on Georgia, Fresno St, and Wyoming?  I'd like to think it's very possible.  And, in a year where CSU doesn't appear on the home portion of the non-con schedule, it may be the difference between historically high and low attendance figures.


The nitty gritty on my projection.

Averaging 7k for the medium-profile teams on the schedule would allow the Buffs to hit my target numbers. I'll give CU fans the benefit-of-the-doubt (in honor of the NIT run), and say that 4k show up on opening night, even with the shitty opponent (that's a stretch).  For Cal State Bakersfield, I'll put the Buffs down for the non-con average of 3,500.  Additionally, I'll say attendance for Texas Southern and New Orleans combines to 5k (Christmas week is always poorly attended).  Total it up, and the projected non-con total is 33,500 for an average of just over 4,700 per night.  Right at my target and an actual increase of 17% over the past 4 years.

If this happens, I'll buy everyone a coke.

Historical notes.

High Non-Con average - 02-03 - 4,416
Low Non-Con average - 05-06 - 2,097
High Conference average - 10-11 - 9,809
Low Conference average - 06-07 - 3,491
Combined average Non-Con from '02-'03 - '10-'11 - 3,585
Combined average Conference from '02-'03 - '10-'11 - 6,974

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