College basketball attendance continues to increase in the Big Ten.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Everybody has a preferred trick when trying to identify the best college basketball conference in the country.
Computer rankings. NCAA Tournament results. NBA Draft picks. Results from non-conference games. Hall of Fame coaches.
Here is another measure that I'm convinced you should include – attendance numbers that show that nobody has a larger more emphatic footprint than the Big Ten.
Here is the textbook definition of why the other conference commissioners have Big Ten Envy:
Eleven of the 12 Big Ten programs are playing to at least 82 percent capacity for their home basketball games this season. (Pick up your game, Penn State.) None of the five other BCS leagues has more than four programs doing that.
Get this: Interest in Big Ten basketball is increasing. The Big Ten, with an attendance increase of 2.5 percent, and ACC, up 4.6 percent with major help from Syracuse, are the only two BCS conferences showing bumps this season.
As Jon Solomon of al.com wrote earlier this month, attendance across the Southeastern Conference last season was the lowest since the 1986-87 season. The current numbers are down 3 percent from the 2013 final season average. Groan. No wonder some argue the SEC will be a two-bid league without much push-back from SEC fans who have already tuned out.
You could argue that attendance is more of a measure of passion than performance. I'd counter that it's the passion that stirs the pressure that makes coaches and players perform. The SEC has too many campuses that go through the motions, pretending that basketball matters.
Seven Big Ten programs are filling at least 90 percent of their seats and five (Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan) look like NCAA Tournament teams. (Pick up your game, Indiana and Illinois.)
Here are numbers that I collected:
AVERAGE ATTENDANCE BY BCS LEAGUES
1. Big Ten 13,447
2. ACC 10,446
3. SEC 10,251
4. Big 12 9,969
5. AAC 8,502
6. Pac-12 7,496
Ten Big Ten programs are averaging at least 12,000 fans per game. The American Athletic Conference has five programs that aren't averaging half that total.
The SEC has three at 12,000-plus – Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. The SEC also has five programs averaging fewer than 7,500 fans per game – Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia, Auburn and Texas A&M.
1. ACC – up 4.6 percent, 9,990 in 2013 to 10,446 this season.
2. Big Ten – up 2.5 percent, 13,114 in 2013 to 13,447 this season.
3. Pac 12 – down 1.8 percent, 7,631 in 2013 to 7,496 this season.
4. SEC – down 3.0 percent, 10,571 in 2013 to 10,251 this season.
5. Big 12 – down 3.1 percent, 10,289 in 2013 to 9,969 this season.
The ACC has received a nice bump from Syracuse (the national attendance leader at 26,223 per home game) and Pittsburgh (10,816). But the league also has a half-dozen teams that have failed to average 7,500 – Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. The addition of Louisville next season will lift the ACC again.
THE TOP TEN – AVERAGE ATTENDANCE IN BCS LEAGUES
1. Syracuse 26,223
2. Kentucky 22,780
3. Louisville 21,186
4. North Carolina 18,127
5. Indiana 17,336
6. Wisconsin 17,085
7. Kansas 16,469
8. Ohio State 16,234
9. Memphis 15,884
10. Tennessee 15,156
Breakdown by league: Big Ten 3; ACC 2; AAC 2; SEC 2, Big 12 1.
THE BOTTOM TEN – AVERAGE ATTENDANCE BCS LEAGUES
1. Washington State 2,825
2. Houston 3,587
3. Oregon State 3,938
4. Rutgers 4,157
5. Boston College 4,227
6. USF 4,381
7. USC 4,413
8. Virginia Tech 4,675
9. TCU 4,829
10. Stanford 4,972
Breakdown by league: Pac-12 4; AAC 3; ACC 2; Big 12 1.
There's no other way to say it: That is an absolutely terrible performance by the Pac-12. A third of the teams in that league are failing to average 5,000 fans per game. No wonder DirecTV has been reluctant to add the Pac-12 Network. Nobody outside Arizona cares.
THE BOTTOM TEN – PERCENTAGE OF CAPACITY
1. Washington State 24.2
2. Oregon State 37.9
3. Texas A&M 39.0
4. Penn State 41.0
5. USF 42.1
6. Houston 42.2
7. USC 43.0
8. Texas Tech 46.5
9. Virginia Tech 47.8
10. Boston College 49.1
Breakdown by league: Pac-12 3; AAC 2; ACC 2; SEC 1, Big Ten 1, Big 12 1.
If you want to make a lists of Coaches on the Hot Seat, here's a great place to start.
TEAMS PLAYING TO 80 PERCENT CAPACITY
1. Big Ten 11 (all but Penn State).
2. ACC 4 (Duke, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Miami); Big 12 (Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma)