SBD/March 15, 2013/Colleges

SEC Tournament Sees Third-Lowest Session II Attendance In Event History

Wednesday's crowd was the smallest for a single session in SEC Tournament history
The SEC on Thursday announced an attendance "of 10,065 for the afternoon games" at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, marking the "third-lowest attendance for a Session II of the SEC tournament," according to Jerry Tipton of the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER. The "record lows are 10,001 in Birmingham in 1980 and 10,004 in Orlando in 1990" (KENTUCKY.com, 3/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Pat Forde noted when the SEC tournament opened Wednesday night with a doubleheader, the attendance "was 7,879 -- the smallest single-session crowd in SEC tourney history." That is "mostly due to the fact that all four teams playing (Mississippi State, South Carolina, Auburn and Texas A&M) were terrible." However, that also is the "price of expansion -- if you go up to 14 teams, you create an extra round of games between flotsam and jetsam." Even with Tennessee playing "a must-win game in its home state Thursday afternoon, the session drew just 10,065 -- what would be an unforgivably small crowd at any spring football game." And a "good portion of that Thursday crowd was wearing Kentucky blue" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/14). ESPN.com's Kristi Dosh wrote the absence of Kentucky from the top 25 may be "most damaging for the SEC." StubHub said that 47% of "all sales to SEC tournament games last year were to fans living in the state of Kentucky." This year, that number is "down to" 39% (ESPN.com, 3/14).

TWO PEAS IN A POD: SI.com's Pete Thamel wrote if ACC Commissioner John Swofford is "smart," he will "call executives at Madison Square Garden soon and broker a 10-year continuous deal" for the tournament. The ACC is "committed to Greensboro through 2015, but if you can stay in the Ritz Carlton why settle for a Super 8?" While it is expected that the "new" Big East will "pick up the old Big East's Garden lease, MSG executives would be foolish to turn away a superior product." MSG and the ACC would be the "perfect marriage of a premiere league and the best postseason hoops venue, a union of power, media muscle and geography." And it would be "more important symbolically, as the Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has visions of moving his conference's tournament" to N.Y. A "proactive move for the ACC could also be a critical defensive move to keep the Big Ten out of Manhattan." All the ACC is "doing by continually moving its tournament is watering down its brand" (SI.com, 3/14). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes of moving the ACC Tournament to MSG, "Would the fans along Tobacco Road be happy? No. But look at the construction of the new ACC and it's easy to see with all those old Big East schools in the mix, not to mention all the Dukies who live in the New York metro, that MSG would be a great coup and long-term success story" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/15).

HELP ME HELP YOU: In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein wrote the Big Ten tournament title game "is an afterthought." It has "no influence on NCAA tournament seeding, and those watching at home are screaming at the TV: 'Just give us the brackets!'" Delany said, "I don't feel that (it lacks importance). What the data would show is that as people get ready for Selection Sunday, it's a different kind of program. ... But leading into the show, we view it as a good thing, and I think CBS views it as a good thing." He added, "We give them a great lead-in to the show, and it's good for us. Most (leagues) stop playing a couple hours earlier or the previous night. So with very little competition, that allows us to aggregate the biggest audience. It gives the championship game a profile" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/14).

A SLOW BUILDUP: In N.Y., Scott Cacciola writes the Atlantic 10 tournament games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday were "played before modest crowds," though Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said that she had "anticipated solid attendance this weekend." McGlade said of the tournament's 14 previous sites along the Eastern Seaboard, "We've never had a sold-out event, so that doesn't happen overnight." The A-10 has a five-year deal with Barclays Center, and the "belief among conference officials is that the arena will generate visibility" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/15).

REACHING A NEW SUMMIT: In South Dakota, James Cimburek noted the Summit League Tournament "has had a great run in Sioux Falls." The '13 event saw "records set for men's (23,710), women's (21,158) and total (44,868) attendance, as well as for the women's championship (6,153)." Over 2,500 all-session tickets already have "been sold for the 2014 championships, the final one that will be held at Sioux Falls Arena." In '15, the championships move "next door to the Denny Sanford Premier Center, a facility that holds nearly twice as many fans for basketball" at 12,000 (Yankton PRESS & DAKOTAN, 3/14).

PUTTING THE LADIES FIRST: In Texas, Will Parchman noted the Big 12 this year chose to "separate its men's and women's basketball tournament sites and game weekends." The women moved to the American Airlines Center in Dallas this year and attendance figures "ballooned" from '12 to '13. Baylor last year in three games at the tournament in K.C. "averaged 5,061 fans." This year, without the men "hogging the city and game-time spotlight, the results were considerably better." Baylor at its three games this year "averaged 7,734 fans," including a "whopping 8,662 during the final against Iowa State." Giving the women's tournament "its own weekend and its own showcase clearly helped up attendance and interest" (WACO TRIBUNE-HERALD, 3/14).
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