A new coach and a new athletic director have done little so far to draw more students to Men’s Basketball games at Bender Arena. The Eagles are 17 games into their regular season and rank last in the Colonial Athletic Association in home attendance with an average of 743 fans per game. That total ranks far below the next closest school, William and Mary, which averages 1,875 fans per home game.
“I think that the men’s basketball program and the women’s basketball program are going to put a product on the floor that is exciting, and I hope the students here at the university come out and give these folks a look,” Athletic Director Dan Radakovich told The Eagle during an interview in October.
So far, few fans have seem to take any interest in the Eagles this season, even when students are out of classes. For three games over winter break attendance ranged between 372 to 787 fans during home contests against Eastern Kentucky University, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
The team rebounded this past weekend with 1,116 fans during Saturday’s game against East Carolina in the midst of a weekend where numerous students were attending inauguration festivities.
Other schools in the CAA have not experienced a decline in attendance because of winter break. The University of Richmond, with a total enrollment of 2,900 undergraduates, leads the CAA in home attendance with 4,856 fans per game. The Spiders, who AU plays Wednesday night, attracted 5,204 fans during a Jan. 6 contest against conference rival James Madison University, and then attracted 3,738 fans in the following week during a game against McNeese State.
Women’s Basketball has averaged nearly as many fans as the men this season according to statistics from the CAA. The women average 710 fans per game and rank fourth in the CAA.
The Athletic Department has lacked an athletic marketing director since the beginning of the semester. Radakovich hired former Olympic consultant and Charlotte Hornets’ ticket director Chris Cordes in December to fill the vacant marketing position.
Cordes has already scheduled several special events to connect the basketball team with the campus community. The Athletic Department will begin to experiment with some ideas to attract more students to games throughout the remainder of the season in order to build an effective marketing scheme for next year, Cordes said.
“We need to reenergize the students on campus,” he said about his efforts to market athletics.
Cordes also added that AU has 30,000 alumni living in the area, which need to be tapped into in order to bolster the attendance numbers. Cordes admits, though, that probably the most effective way to attract more fans will be for the basketball teams to put together winning seasons.
The Athletic Department initiated its promotion attempts this weekend with a pre-game pizza party on Saturday for the AU Greek Community with Men’s Basketball Coach Jeff Jones. Cordes has scheduled another pre-game pizza event with Jones for the entire AU community before the Eagles’ game on Wednesday.