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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

UConn's Auriemma: Attendance for NCAA opener "embarrassing"

It didn't seem too long ago that 5,000 fans would show up hours before the one of the UConn women's basketball Midnight Madness events. Call it the SuperShow, First Night or whatever you like, the mere opportunity to see the players who figured to contend for a national title would always draw a crowd.
Then came the rows and rows of empty seats at Saturday night's NCAA tournament opener against St. Francis (N.Y.). The final attendance number was 3,666, the lowest for an NCAA tournament game at Gampel Pavilion since 2,585 showed up for the UConn/Clemson tilt back in 1990. Factoring in the large amount of fans from St. Francis, Rutgers and Seton Hall and the seemingly indifferent
response from Husky Nation resulted in a much lower turnout than most people expected.
"It is not indicative who our program is and what we have done to get to this point," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It is kind of embarrassing. We took great pride in who we are, what we have done and how we have done it for all of these years. For that to happen, I am not pointing a finger at anybody but I just think it is embarrassing. I am not blaming anybody but I just know that in 2002 there would have been 3,600 people (at a UConn NCAA tournament games)."

From 1994-2003 UConn soldout every NCAA tournament home game. Yet, here were the Huskies being outdrawn by fans at Oregon State, South Florida and Florida State among others.

Some of the issues are a result in the change in how the subregionals are awarded and marketed. The days of being given a subregional and putting tickets on sale months in advance ended when the NCAA opted to have the top 16 seeds host the first and second rounds. When you add in UConn getting 9 p.m. start times both on Saturday and Monday and there was a recipe for a low attendance number. Auriemma believed some of it is just a case of UConn winning so often and by such large margins that coming to opening round NCAA tournament games isn't the hot ticket it used to be.
"I think it is indicative of all sports," Auriemma said. "Hey, let's go check it out and after a while 'oh, I'll watch it on TV.' I don't think that is any different whether that is in baseball, football or whether it is in any sport. There comes a point when 'what's the point? They are going to win.' Then they look for excuses why. It is the tickets are too expensive, it is what time the games are, it is the parking, it is where I am sitting, it is anything that you can imagine to justify it and who's to say they are wrong."
Auriemma wasn't the only person at UConn a little miffed at getting the latest start time on both Saturday and Monday.
"I don't know how all of those things are done. I would assume the TV networks said 'hey, we want UConn on at 9 p.m.,'" Auriemma said. "We have the same deal with SNY. If SNY says Saturday's game is going to be at 2, we play at 2. If they say it is at 4, we play at 4. There is no answer. If you are looking for an answer, there is no answer.
"It makes no sense to me and my fans. Somebody said to me before the tournament what is your ideal situation? I would have said Saturday at 4 and Monday night at 7 if it has to be Saturday/Monday or Friday at 7 and Sunday at 2. You look or windows where you know who our fan base is and get 8, 9 or 10,000. I don't make those decisions."



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