Before the Missouri men’s basketball teams’ 85-77 win over Davidson in the first round of the NIT on March 18, Missouri coach Frank Haith sent an email to students telling them the first 500 would get into the game free. Less than 500 students showed up, and total announced attendance for the game was 2,403.
That followed a Southeastern Conference season during which Missouri’s home attendance declined 19.4 percent, dropping to an average of 11,140 fans per game this year from 13,805 last season. This year’s average conference attendance was the lowest since the 2007-2008 season, when the Tigers finished 16-16 and failed to qualify for the postseason.
An announced total of 6,033 fans showed up on March 23 to see Missouri play Southern Mississippi in the second round of the NIT, but that was still well below the average turnout at Mizzou Arena over the last few years.
Despite attendance as a whole being down, Andrew Grinch, associate athletic director for external operations, said that the arena’s suites were sold out for the year. He said that revenues remain strong and MU Athletics expected that men’s basketball revenues to be about as high as they were last year.
Weather might have hurt attendance at a few games this year. Columbia was expected to receive six to 10 inches of snow the night of Missouri’s game against Mississippi on March 1, and Haith guessed that kept a few fans away. The announced attendance was 9,403, the second smallest of the conference season.
“Weather is one of the external factors we had this year that caused fans with tickets not to attend games,” Grinch said in an email.
Over the last five years, attendance peaked during the 2012 season, when Missouri went 30-5 and was a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Mizzou Arena holds 15,061 spectators, and fans filled 98.5 percent of seats for the nine conference home games during the 2012 campaign. An average of 14,839 fans saw Missouri go 8-1 at home that year.
Mizzou Arena sold out six times during the 2012 conference season. The Tigers didn’t sell out a single game this season, when they went 23-12 overall and 9-9 in conference play.
In 2010, 2011 and 2013 Missouri finished with identical records of 23-11. The Tigers were eliminated in the first or second round of the NCAA Tournament each of those seasons. And each of those seasons, Missouri had conference attendance of about 13,800 fans per game.
Grinch said it’s hard to track average ticket prices for each season because donations are required for season tickets, and those can change each year.
Note: This story originally ran kbiasports.org under the headline Mizzou Arena attendance down sharply for men’s basketball in 2014.