By Ashley Dunkak
Hours after polls ranked Michigan State basketball the No. 1 team in the nation for just the third time in school history, head coach Tom Izzo and company stayed undefeated by beating Portland, 82-67.
The only issue was the Spartans played the home game in an arena that reportedly contained thousands of empty seats, especially in the student section.
Though the game is technically labeled a sellout because of tickets sold, not everyone showed up and the lack of attendance bothered Izzo to the point he spoke at length about the issue at the team’s post-game press conference.
According to CBSSports.com, Izzo said he felt “disappointment” at the small crowd and it “had an effect on a lot of people … including me.” The coach also said he has “thousands of people who are dying to come” to games and suggested those with tickets who aren’t attending should give their tickets to those who do want to show up.
Attendance for games against lesser opponents – and many non-conference foes on the schedule fit the bill – is a problem that schools across the country are trying to solve. At Kansas State, a points system of recent years required students to attend (or at least scan their tickets at the stadium) a certain number of games in order to attend the big rivalry game against perennial national title contender Kansas.
According to the Wall Street Journal, average home attendance at men’s games in the Atlantic Coast Conference fell in each of the past four seasons, falling 13.5 percent between 2012 and 2006.
“At Maryland, attendance dropped 24 percent in six years, prompting a student-led online campaign to encourage others to show up,” the WSJ added.
Trying to get fans to show up for women’s games is even more of an issue. The Wildcats used bacon to entice fans to show up at one women’s game this season, and Colorado has taken the incentive approach to an entirely new (and much more strict) level by forcing fans to stay for an entire Buffaloes women’s game in order to pick up their tickets for the men’s game against the Jayhawks. It’ll be enforced by a seemingly complicated system of exchanging wristbands for tickets at a certain point and under the watchful eyes of officials.
Here’s where Michigan State stacks up, per BigTen.org: Indiana led the Big Ten in attendance, and ranked fifth nationally with an average of 17,412 fans per game; Michigan State came in 18th with 14,341 on average.
Michigan averaged 10,640 fans at 19 home games, according to the Ann Arbor News.