This Saturday is Toledo's annual Rockets for the Cure game. Savage Arena draws a packed house every year for this event and Toledo will most certainly reach an impressive attendance milestone by day's end: averaging over 4,000 fans per home game during the 2012-2013 season.
I thought it would be interesting to put together a rundown of the home attendance figures for the other teams in the MAC to see how they not only match up against each other but how they rank nationally.
Here are the current attendance numbers as of February 10th, 2013:
|School||Home Games||Total||Average||Overall Rank||Home Record|
|Toledo||10||39,857||3,986||26||9 - 1|
|Bowling Green||12||19,769||1,647||80||8 - 4|
|Buffalo||11||14,075||1,280||105||4 - 7|
|Central Michigan||11||13,844||1,259||108||9 - 2|
|Western Michigan.||9||8,288||921||153||5 - 4|
|Ball State||11||9,210||837||168||6 - 5|
|Ohio||11||8,310||755||178||3 - 8|
|Miami||11||7,009||637||210||7 - 4|
|Kent State||11||6,059||551||234||2 - 9|
|Akron||11||5,923||538||239||8 - 3|
|Northern Illinois||8||3,154||394||294||2 - 6|
|Eastern Michigan||12||4,090||341||320||3 - 9|
So things aren't looking that great overall so let's highlight some of the good news first.
Bowling Green is averaging similar numbers to last year and ranks 80th in the nation. Toledo has seen a small bump over the 3,700 they averaged during the 2011-2012 campaign and find themselves with the 26th largest home attendance in the country. The Rockets are drawing better than any other women's basketball team in the state of Ohio right now and are within striking distance of finishing the year in the Top 20 nationally. That's pretty impressive for a mid-major program who can't draw any marquee names to come play them at home. I'll take my Toledo fan hat off now.
Even though Bowling Green and Toledo are the only schools in the MAC that rank in the Top 100 there are two other schools worth mentioning in a positive light. Buffalo is almost inside the Top 100 and sits third in the MAC but they struggle at home with a 4 and 7 record through 11 games. Central Michigan is averaging over 1,000 fans per game (the last of the four MAC teams that can claim that) and are crushing the competition at home with a 9 and 2 record.
And now for the bad news.
Most of the schools in the MAC have plenty of empty seats if you're looking to go see a game. Western Michigan, Ball State, Ohio Miami and Kent State see more than 550 fans at their home games but rarely over one thousand. Right behind Kent State is Akron with an 8 and 3 record at home while only playing in front of an average of 538 warm bodies every game. The Zips have no need for your silly home court advantage and can lead the MAC East's standings without fan support, thank you very much.
At the bottom sits Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan. Those two programs are doing exceedingly poor inside the MAC and nationally when it comes to their home turnouts this year. Both schools are averaging under 400 fans per game. That is 200 fans less than they were seeing last season. With bad attendance and equally bad records this has not been a good season for either school so far.
I'm a realist and I understand that women's basketball isn't a magnet for large crowds but it's a shame some of these schools have such poor home turnouts. You can argue that winning teams fill seats and that most of the teams in the MAC are playing very poorly this season but then what is Akron's excuse. Even schools like Central Michigan can't find more than 1,300 people to come watch them play.
Putting my Toledo fan hat back on, it's obvious that bringing in big crowds for women's basketball is possible. The Rockets are the poster child for large attendance in the conference and that was built on boosting their fan base with insanely cheap season ticket packages where they practically pay you to go to the games. Throw in some excellent international recruiting that brought in players people love to watch and you have a recipe for success.
It's obviously too late in the season for anyone to make huge turnarounds but let's hope in the future some of these lower ranked MAC schools can put together a plan to increase the size of their home crowds.