Re­gional games failed to court many fans

Sweet 16, Elite Eight con­tests saw27% de­cline at neu­tral- site venues

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Doug Fein­berg

dal­las » Therewere a lot of empty seats at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tour­na­ment re­gion­als.

The NCAA sa wits low­est at­ten­dance for the re­gion­als in 20 years, and there is no change to the for­mat in sight.

An av­er­age of 4,719 fans showed up for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in the four neu­tral- site venues. That’s down 27 per­cent from last year and nearly 50 per­cent from 2014, when the games were played on cam­pus sites. In 1997, an av­er­age of 4,252 fans came to the re­gion­als.

This year’s num­bers were bol­stered by the Bridge­port Re­gional, which sold out both days UConn played there. No other site had a lo­cal team play­ing.

“We con­tinue towork as hard as pos­si­ble to support strong at­ten­dance at re­gional sites,” said Anucha Browne, the NCAA vice pres­i­dent for women’s basketball. “The chal­lenge is tak­ing some great teams that have real strong at­ten­dance on cam­puses and move them across the coun­try so that their fans can travel with them. It’s not a log­i­cal ap­proach to grow our game.”

The Stockton Re­gional had three East Coast teams play in it, along with Ore­gon State. South Carolina and Florida State met in the fi­nal Mon­day night with only 3,134 fans in at­ten­dance. The Game­cocks have led the NCAA in home at­ten­dance the past fewyears, draw­ing an av­er­age of 12,277 fans this sea­son. How­ever, few wanted to make the cross- coun­try trip to Cal­i­for­nia.

Ok­la­homa City had a strong matchup, with Baylor fac­ing Mis­sis­sippi State— the top two teams in the re­gion. Yet only 3,128 fans at­tended Sun­day night’s game. Lex­ing­ton was even worse, with 2,527 fans com­ing to see Notre Dame face Stan­ford.

“We have a unique sit­u­a­tion that needs to be han­dled,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I’m not say­ing I knowwhat all the an­swers are, but there’s cer­tain places in Amer­ica that there’s a lot of re­ally good women’s basketball fans, and there’s a lot of places that it’s not. So to put re­gion­als in those places doesn’t make any sense.”

The num­bers aren’t all bad. The at­ten­dance at the first two rounds of the NCAAs was the third high­est in the last 10 years. The Fi­nal Four and cham­pi­onship game in Dal­las are vir­tu­ally sold out for the first time since 2014.

South Carolina, left, and Florida State warm up be­foreMon­day night’s re­gional fi­nal game – and a lot of empty seats – at Stockton Arena in Stockton, Calif. Rich Pe­dron­celli, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.