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Should Syracuse Basketball Fans 'Simmer Down' About Attendance?

Dana O'Neil thinks Orange fans should 'simmer down' about the attendance crown because Kentucky fans would fill a 600,000-seat arena if they had one in Lexington. OK ...

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Dana O'Neil decided to have some fun with attendance numbers this week, and boy was it FUN! Most of it was just a blogger trying to fill space during the summer by combing through a press release and some statistics - meaning it was pretty useless.

But there was one nugget that might be of interest here, in regards to Syracuse's claim to the top spot in the per-game attendance rankings once again:

Now before Orange fans get too full of themselves and start gloating at the Big Blue Nation of runner-up Kentucky, realize that Carrier Dome seats 35,000-plus for hoops. Rupp Arena taps out at 23,500 (or 22 more than UK somehow squished on average in the place). And if you built a 600,000-seat arena in Lexington, they would come.

So congrats Syracuse, but simmer down.

(Insert pot stirring GIF)

It's summer here too, so let's have a little fun with fact-checking Dana's attendance comments, one by one.

"Rupp Arena taps out at 23,500"

Sure, that's the listed capacity, but considering 10 games cracked the 24,000 mark, it's not actually the capacity, so let's not pretend every game was a sellout in Lexington.

"If you built a 600,000-seat arena in Lexington, they would come"

Six home games came in at less than 23,000 and a total of eight fell below the listed capacity of 23,500. There were some empty seats in Rupp last year - though obviously not many. If Kentucky fans really could fill a giant arena every night, they surely would have gotten the 24,428 they got for the Florida game for every game, and then this attendance crowd would be theirs alone with no asterisk.

"So congrats Syracuse, but simmer down"

Well, what about Kentucky fans simmering down as well? If Syracuse should apologize to UK for having a larger capacity for its arena, surely Kentucky fans should apologize to the rest of the NCAA for the size of theirs. Rupp Arena is the second-largest arena in the NCAA, so they have the same advantage over every other school in the nation other than Syracuse.

Duke averages 9,300 fans per game thanks to their tiny arena. Do you really think the Blue Devil fans wouldn't fill up a 24,000 seat place like Rupp? If we're comparing percent to official capacity, Duke is at exactly 100% of its capacity, so clearly they're doing better than Kentucky and Syracuse when it comes to attendance. Just give them the crown.

Clearly the narrative here is that SU just puts up big attendance numbers against teams like Duke, and then the place is empty every other night. That's obviously not true as SU topped 20,000 in 13 of its 18 games this season, and cracked the 30,000 mark against Miami and Pittsburgh, in addition to the Duke game. In fact, the lowest attended game in the Carrier Dome last season (17,691 against Loyola) still outpaced the season averages of every team but Kentucky (23,572), Louisville (21,386) and North Carolina (19,582).


But seriously, let's have some real talk about the attendance numbers, because they actually were a significant step back from last year, when you dig a little deeper.

  • Total attendance was down 43,172 from last year (9.1% drop)
  • Average attendance was down 2,398 from last year (9.1% drop, obviously, because it was the same number of games)
  • The lowest attended game in 2014-15 was 17,691 against Loyola, down from 19,473 the year before against High Point (9.2% drop)
So the sanctions and the overall decrease in play by the team did have an effect on the attendance numbers, despite what many would have you believe. Although, considering regular-season wins were down 33%, and possible NCAA Tournament appearances were down 100%, a 9% drop in attendance is actually something to be proud of this year.