Sunday, June 19, 2016

Attendance Keeps Upward Trajectory

It is starting to become a point of pride in the UTA Athletic Department. The attendance in Maverick country has done nothing but rise again this year. In fact, there has not been a year-over-year decrease since the 2013/2014 academic year in any of the team sports, volleyball, men's and women's basketball, softball and baseball.

Let me get into some dry numbers that are the backbone of this post.

In 2012, volleyball averaged 322 fans per game. That moved to 458 in 2013, 551 in 2014 and 783 this past year. The team finished this year 19-10 and in finished fourth in the Sun Belt Conference.

The men's basketball team drew 1,872 fans per game in the 2013/14 season. That number grew to 2,051 in 2014/15 and set a program record of 2,888 this past season. This year, the Mavs had a promising year with marquee wins en route to a 24-11 record and a third place SBC finish.

The women's basketball reported 439 butts in seats in 2012/13, 995 in 2013/14, 1,016 in 2014/15 and 1,041 this past year, earning a 15-16 record and a sixth place SBC ranking.

The softball team, playing in an almost new stadium, drew 139 in 2013, 162 in 2014, just prior to venue renovations, 225 in the new renovated facility and 320 this year, one that resulted in a 29-20 mark, including a 19-0 start, and a seventh place spot in the SBC standings.

The baseball squad played in front of a 331 average in 2013, 352 in 2014, 432 last year and 512 this past year, one that result in a 30-27 record and a seventh place SBC finish. Note: the Athletic Department includes games at Globe Life Ballpark in the home average. I do not. That game adds approximately 100 to the average each year.

Every sport save men's basketball has experienced three straight years of increased attendance. I know for certain that the men's team has set an all-time program high in average, and believe that every program set a record this past year. I only have complete records for the men's basketball and football programs, though so I can only deduce that off of historical accounts and pictures. What I can assure you is that each program set attendance high marks since I was a student in 2000.

I think another point to consider is just how we rank among our conference peers. I tallied the total attendance across all team sports the conference offers and UTA stacks up very well. The big stumbling block is football. When added to the mix, UTA's total attendance is in last place with 93,104, behind 10th place Little Rock's 115,225.

I believe that Little Rock reported women's basketball numbers are highly flawed. They mirror the men's basketball teams in conference play, but were one-third of that in non-conference play. Translation, Little Rock reported the SBC champions men's basketball numbers for the women's side. If accurate, it would be an increase of 125 percent over the previous year. Otherwise, I think the teams would have been even.

Outside of that, let's factor out football. UTA still drew 93,104, but that number comes in 5th in the SBC (4th if not for LR fudging the numbers). No one is going to catch the 221,977 of Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns where their baseball team draws more than some football programs and whose softball numbers would have been above half the SBC's baseball squads. Texas State was a distant second with 124,448. I've always admired the Bobcat following, especially on the spring sports side where their baseball team is the third most attended SBC school and softball is second. Third belongs to the unreliable number of 115,225 from Little Rock. Right behind that is South Alabama with 113,595.

UTA beat more "traditional" schools Troy (83,012), Georgia Southern (69,963), Arkansas State (60,241) and Appalachian State (43,348).

Also realize that every school but UTA has at least a women's soccer team and three schools that UTA finished ahead of in the total non-FB attendance have a men's soccer program as well.

As far as SBC finish, volleyball's 783 per game was third in the SBC, where their total of 10,176 was second. Men's basketball's 2,888 was also third, as was the total attendance. Women's basketball's draw of 1,041 was fifth, softball's 320 was fifth and baseball's 512 was sixth.

No matter how you look at it, there's no question this Athletic Department is growing and finding a bigger following. When I was a student, UTA was near the bottom in attendance for every sport but volleyball, and even then it was middle of the pack (we were usually ahead of Nichols State and Southeastern Louisiana). I find it exciting to not just follow and root for the UT Arlington Mavericks, but that others are doing so too and in greater numbers.

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