ACC Attendance Declining

I have written several articles lately about ACC officiating bias.  Here is an article that talks about how ACC basketball game attendance is dropping.  IMO the two subjects are related.  The article explains:

As a whole, the ACC is averaging 9,406 fans through Wednesday. It would be the lowest average for the league since the 1984-1985 season and the first time it has been lower than 10,000 since the 1988-1989 season. If those figures don’t drastically improve, it would be the fourth consecutive year the ACC’s attendance numbers declined.

The ACC and Pacific-12 are the only leagues that have seen their attendance figures drop in every year since 2008.

Not only do we seem to have Pro Wrestling-like predictability when it comes to officiating and outcomes, we have a Pro Wrestling-like storyline cultivated throughout the season by ESPN, culminating every season with the ridiculous overhyping of the two (or three if they get their wish) UNC-Duke matchups.  This hyperfocus comes at the expense of the rest of the league and the long-range viability of the ACC basketball product itself.

One way to evaluate how the league’s fans as a whole feel about the ACC basketball product is to look at the demand for ACC Tournament tickets.  As recently as ten years ago an ACC Tournament ticket book was a hot item.  Twenty years ago there were none to be found on the open market, and hadn’t been for decades.  Today, you can’t even get face value for them.   

Perhaps there are other reasons for the ACC basketball’s growing attendance crisis, but IMO this trend will not reverse until referee bias is dealt with and each school is treated equally by the ACC office.

About Rick

1992 and 2002 graduate from NCSU. Born and raised an NCSU fan. I remember the good ol' days and they weren't in the last 20 years.

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35 Responses to ACC Attendance Declining

  1. PackMan97 02/28/2012 at 2:16 PM #

    To be fair, the play at most schools has been awful. Awful coaches, awful programs, awful attendance. Just look at the coaches over the past 10 years, and especially the past five years. The ACC has been awful. Gaudio and Bz at Wake. Lowe at State. Hewitt at Tech. Skinner at BC. etc, etc, etc. Who would pay to watch that crap?

    Of course, Swofford could have been working that situation and focusing on making the ACC a premier coaching destination instead of making sure the blues brothers stayed at the top and causing good coaches to question whether the ACC was the place for them.

  2. WV Wolf 02/28/2012 at 2:31 PM #

    With the variation in arena size I think percent capacity would be a better measure than average attendance but the point of the article absolutely still stands.

    I still like going to games in person so I’m not contributing to the attendance drop but I would have an impact on TV ratings (if I had a Nielson box). I don’t watch near as much ACC basketball on TV as I used to. Matchups between the middle and bottom tier teams are just bad to mediocre basketball. And when those teams never get a fair shake against the blue teams there’s not much incentive to watch those games either.

  3. good2bjking 02/28/2012 at 2:39 PM #

    I’m all for pinning the woes of the ACC on the Swoff – I can’t say enough bad things about him – but it’s a combination of things at work here, led first and foremost by mediocre basketball. PackMan has it right that the quality of coaches are mostly to blame, and I think that HDTV has a lot to do with it too, as the article mentions. But I’ll pin plenty of blame at the feet of arena management (and schools) for gouging the fans on ticket prices, parking and food/beverages inside the arena (and I can only speak for the RBC here). At $35 a ticket for where I sit for hoops + whatever the parking pass divided up per game equals, I can’t justify even having a drink of water (at $4 a pop) while I’m there. They give you every reason not to attend.

  4. UpstateSCWolfpack 02/28/2012 at 2:45 PM #

    I maybe a little slow on this, but I just really looked at your ACC logo at the top. I don’t care who you are, that is funny.

  5. Prowling Woofie 02/28/2012 at 2:48 PM #

    I’m an old-school ACC guy, so my fervor has gone the way of the traditional rivalries. I still support the Pack when I can, both live and by watching on TV, but without the old home-and-home schedules, I’m not as much of a die hard as I used to be.

    Does the ref bias add to that ? Hard to say – it may keep me from watching games start to finish, if the refs are particularly one-sided, but if the quality of the ball is bad, I’m likely to channel surf to find a good game.

    If I’ve bought tickets, then I’m going to the games – no doubt. I do confess, however, that I missed more ticket-buying opportunities during the Sendek-Lowe years than I did previously !

  6. Rick 02/28/2012 at 3:03 PM #

    “Matchups between the middle and bottom tier teams are just bad to mediocre basketball. And when those teams never get a fair shake against the blue teams there’s not much incentive to watch those games either.”

    I have all but quit watching ACC basketball and I am a die-hard basketball fan. I used to watch every game I could find but now the basketball in the bottom teams is not just bad but ugly and boring. And I honestly cannot stand to watch the blues play. I like UNC’s brand of basketball, they have some unreal talent but the ref bias makes it un-watchable for me. With Duke I get frustrated with what K has turned basketball into. The flopping, hand checking and flailing to draw fouls makes their basketball awful.

    I have started watching other teams as it is much more enjoyable. Mich St, Oh St, Kansas, etc.

  7. Khan 02/28/2012 at 3:21 PM #

    I think the decline in the economy along with the decline in quality of play across the league are more important factors than officiating or the theory that the league is engaged in elevating the blue teams at the expense of everybody else.

    Even if that theory is 100% true and there is also some conspiracy with officiating, I would argue that plays far less into someone’s decision to spend time and money going to see their favorite team play than does the quality of the product they’re about to watch and how much money is in their pocket.

    Ugly play is boring to watch and usually results in not being very competitive. That leads to apathy. Who wants to waste their time or hard-earned money being bored to death, while knowing you’re probably going to lose?

    If one wants to make the argument that bad officiating and purposfully elevating certain teams at the expense of others leads to the actual decline of other teams, thus decreasing game attendence, then one could probably make a decent case for that. But I don’t think the above reasons have a direct and substantial influence on overall ACC game attendence, outside of just a few minor instances.

    TV viewership may be another whole thing though.

  8. packof81 02/28/2012 at 3:22 PM #

    The ACC is being run into the ground. The ones doing it will never correlate the declining attendance with what they are doing. They’ll blame it on the economy, gas prices or anything besides their own corruption.

  9. coach13 02/28/2012 at 3:27 PM #

    I’m confident the fans of the other teams are not gonna keep attending games if they feel their is a slant to promote 2 teams to stay at the top. Would you watch if yout team is struggling and on top of that things are tilted against you? It wears on fans eventually.

  10. buclark 02/28/2012 at 3:33 PM #

    “The ACC she ain’t what she used to be 20 long years ago”. The only way to turn it around is new leadership, but the money from TV makes the leadership look much better than it has been.

  11. LifeLongWolf 02/28/2012 at 3:35 PM #

    More teams = dilution of product. The reason the old ACC was so great is the intense, concentrated rivalries with ALL of the other teams.

    It’s like increasing class size to accept more students. You ain’t picking from the top of the barrel. Who do you let in when class sizes increase? The lower quality students!

    Regardless of cause, declining attendance should be reason #1 for switching ACC leadership.

  12. WeAreCured 02/28/2012 at 3:41 PM #

    Swofford has got to go. How many reasons does one need to make a change? Conflicts of interest and the decline in quality play are big factors for fans, but who can argue against a decline in revenue?

  13. Prowling Woofie 02/28/2012 at 4:11 PM #

    Cured – Does the increase in TV revenue due to expansion/new ESPN contract compensate the schools for the revenue loss due to drop off in game attendance ?

    That’s a question, not a smart comment – I have no idea what the financial figures are.

    If so, that may allow Swofford to claim success…

  14. Gene 02/28/2012 at 4:36 PM #

    “I’m confident the fans of the other teams are not gonna keep attending games if they feel their is a slant to promote 2 teams to stay at the top. ”

    I have seriously begun to wonder, if the reason UNC and Duke have experienced the most successful 20 year run, in either school’s history is somehow due to our falling off the face of the earth, as a basketball powerhouse.

    They don’t have to compete for players with a third school in the state and so have been able to concentrate talent like never before.


    As to why attendance is down, it’s pretty simple: The product on the court sucks.

    In the 1980’s and 1990’s, you had a good chunk of the ACC with top talent/coaches. UVa, Maryland, Wake Forest, Ga. Tech and NCSU, in the 1980’s, were all able to field competitive teams more often then not.

    In the 1990’s, Maryland experienced a rebirth. Wake Forest had good runs with Duncan/Childress and under Prosser. Though Uva and Ga. Tech. were slumping, Clemson started playing better.

    Somewhere over the last 7-8 years the coaching talent just isn’t there anymore.

    UVa struggled with a series of ineffective coaches. Clemson had a good run with Purnell, but couldn’t get over the hump. Maryland’s dropped off, after their title. Ga. Tech. had a one year aberration under Hewitt. NCSU fell down to the bottom of the ACC. BC fired Skinner for whatever reason their crazy AD had.

    The list goes on.

    The problem is though the spate of new coaches seem to be an improvement over their predecessors, most of them seem to be playing a slow down type of ball game.

    Add to it the seemingly inevitable domination by UNC and Duke and the interest in the basketball season really goes by the wayside. It’s been about 10 years, since there’s been competition for who will win the ACC regular season.

    You no longer have Maryland and Wake Forest teams challenging Duke and UNC for the top spot.

    I’m not saying ACC officiating is good. It isn’t. I’ve watched other conferences and the games are much more consistently called.

    There’s so much that has to change with the basketball culture that’s taken hold over the last few years, if ACC basketball isn’t going to go the way of the PAC-12.

  15. PackMan97 02/28/2012 at 4:48 PM #

    Don’t forget the loss of rivalries.

    We’ve dropped a guaranteed home game against Duke and picked one up against BC and Miami. Anyone want to bet which opponent is more likely to sell out our arena?

    It’s no coincidence that the two teams that have maintained their strongest rivals are also two of the three that haven’t seen any attendance issues.

    Just saying.

  16. BJD95 02/28/2012 at 4:59 PM #

    There’s a synergy among the many various factors. They all accelerate each other (bad play, bad coaching, promotion of only blue, etc.).

  17. Hungwolf 02/28/2012 at 5:04 PM #

    last 15 years has seen the ACC and ESPN turn the UNC/Duke game into a ratings showcase and evertything about ACC bball from the conference to Vitale on ESPN praising everything Duke and Carolina. With that the rest of the league in bball has been tossed to the side. Add to that two medicore programs in Miama and Va. Tech coming into the league has watered down ACC basketball. Also remember as far as attendance, many schools across the country have expanded their areanas. Duke actually brings down ACC average attendance. Miami kills it also. State, UNC, and Maryland are the schools that bring attendance averages up.

  18. tmb81 02/28/2012 at 5:07 PM #

    It is in the ACC’s best interest to have more than two successful teams. They should be promoting deeper in the standings to get more teams in the NCAAs. The question is can they? Is ESPN through its partnership with the NBA diluting the product? They have taken away two potential showcase times a week: Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon in favor of NBA games. Then they tend to mainly feature teams that nurture future NBA talent: Yes UNC and Duke, but also Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Michigan St, etc.

    This has been going on for several years. Attendance, just like unemployment, is a lagging indicator.

  19. bluelena69 02/28/2012 at 5:27 PM #

    IMO, nothing will change until those attendance numbers drop around 50%. I told my brother around 10 days ago that a few teams would get jobbed over the remainder of the season to deliver ESPN the ACC championship cagematch. Lo and behold, a few games involving blue teams have seen questionable officiating and ESPN has their cage match. Am I prophetic? Not at all.

  20. Wolf74 02/28/2012 at 7:23 PM #

    “I told my brother around 10 days ago that a few teams would get jobbed over the remainder of the season to deliver ESPN the ACC championship cagematch. Lo and behold, a few games involving blue teams have seen questionable officiating and ESPN has their cage match. Am I prophetic? Not at all.”

    Ain’t it the truth. Just as predictable as the sun rising in the East. That is why I never watch any ACC event unless it involves NCSU and I wouldn’t take ACC tickets if you were giving them away. But then again what else could you expect with “baby blue homer” Swofford?

  21. pack76 02/28/2012 at 7:23 PM #

    Simple explanation:
    1. Poor play
    2. Poor Officiating
    3. So expensive, you can’t take your family anymore!

  22. Pack84 02/28/2012 at 8:02 PM #

    I think all the factors mentioned above contribute to the decline. But I definitely think the WWE-like bias is a big factor. The only way to overcome one of the blues is to go the FSU route and just blow them out of the building giving Charles Robinson, Earl Hebner, and Jim Korderas no chance at affecting the outcome.

  23. Marvin 02/28/2012 at 9:09 PM #

    College basketball in general is a poor entertainment product. If I remember correctly, some Big-12 team got held to under 40 this weekend. Scores are down to where they were before the shot clock was instituted.

    Honestly, I’m not sure why I care a whit about NC State basketball. We’ve been awful to mediocre for a quarter century; our arch rivals face off in every ACC championship game, and even among the games we’ve won this year, many have been butt-ugly (Wake and BC). At least the Carolina game was good basketball. But I hardly ever see that any more.

    After a long hiatus I tuned into the NBA again during the 2010 Finals. It was amazing! Big, fast guys who hit all their FTs and make amazing shots. If it weren’t for intangibles, State fans would be entirely rational if they returned their season tickets and suddenly became homers for the OK City Thunder or some other NBA team that can really ball.

  24. 61Packer 02/28/2012 at 9:19 PM #

    There are many problems that have led to the decline of ACC basketball fan interest in the past two decades, but none to me are more obvious than league administrators. Their arrogance has led to not only the killing off of longstanding ACC rivalries but also to the sudden breakup of the Big XII Conference and to the slower but just as deadly destruction of the Big East Conference. These administrators are driven by one thing and one thing only- GREED. Like government-run lotteries, the cable tv networks have dangled a fat carrot in front of the John Swoffords and Jim Dulaneys of the world, and the drool has begun.

    These enlightened folks have sold the public on the idea that we HAVE to expand or we’ll be left behind. What a crock of BS! You can ask most any ACC fan who is or has been a ticketholder for any of the pre-2000 teams, and I’d bet you that NONE of those nine fan bases would’ve wanted expansion if they’d known that rivalries were going to be sacrificed, except perhaps for Virginia Tech, the only ACC addition since South Carolina who’s made any sense to me.

    Why aren’t we fans as interested in ACC basketball as we once were? It isn’t the lack of quality on the court, but rather it’s the lack of teams you want to see on your home schedule each season. A State-UNC game, regardless of how bad one or both are, has always and will always fill the house. Duke, Maryland, Clemson, Georgia Tech and UVA are also longstanding rivals that league officials have declared off-limits for home-and-away each season. Other than the fact that the Miami game this week has NCAA importance, there is no basketball connection here whatsoever. Ditto for Boston College and probably Pitt.

    The ACCT has been a hard-sell when it moves outside NC. Atlanta is a nice city but it has no more ACC basketball feel than NYC will have when the ACCT goes there, and it will. These marathon tournaments are not going to draw large crowds for 4 and 5-day periods. Won’t happen, not even in Greensboro.

    Swofford and his ilk have got to go. If they don’t, we should. In a change of opinion, I am now on board for ANY league change for NCSU if we are going to continue to see our football and basketball schedules become more like the Big East than the ACC. Count me in.

  25. john of sparta 02/28/2012 at 11:02 PM #

    because this is about attendance:
    1. HDTV.
    2. the internets.
    3. Late school-night tips.
    4. oh yeah, ticket inflation.
    5. the economy. well, everybody says so.
    6. the product has up and left the ACC.
    in my opinion, *product* isn’t about the
    ACC or Swofford, but the NCAA in total.
    NCAA Men’s Basketball is trending toward
    the NCAA baseball demographic.

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