The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team went to the Final Four and National Championship last season. They’re following that up with a Top 15 preseason ranking and high hopes of going far in the NCAA Tournament once again.
So we should probably have more than 752 fans in the stands this season. For a start.
752 is the average home attendance for the Orange last season. That was second to last in the ACC but given how cavernous the Carrier Dome is, it was almost certainly dead last in terms of percentage of seats occupied. Of the ACC's 15 teams, eleven averaged more than 1,000 fans per game and five crossed the 3,000 mark.
SU’s attendance was really lower than that for most of the year. It just got boosted by a couple late-season upticks. The highest of which was Senior Night, when the nationally-ranked Orange beat the No. 10 team in the nation with a quality NCAA Tournament on the line. Attendance that night was 1,532 people.
I’ve said in the past that a fanbase has to actively try to be as nonplussed as Syracuse is when it comes to women’s basketball. It’s not natural, especially given the ways that lesser programs outdrew us and that some women’s games took place right before or right after men’s games.
...w know Orange fans turn out in droves for men's basketball. You would think even if there isn't a strong corollary between the two, at least SOME of those people would stick around for women's games. And yet even the worst-performing teams in the ACC draw better than our perennial NCAA Tournament team. It's almost as if SU fans go out of their way not to care.
Other than “I don’t want to watch women’s basketball,” the program has removed any other impediment from SU fans showing up in 2016-2017. They’ve got stars like Alexis Peterson. They’ve got a five-star recruit in Desiree Elmore. They’ve got a massively-entertaining, charismatic, and well-dressed coach in Quentin Hillsman. They’re nationally-ranked and there’s no reason they can’t compete in the ACC.
Syracuse University associate athletics director for business development Anthony Di Fino spoke with Syracuse.com’s Lindsay Kramer about whether or not the recent success will translate into more butts in seats and while he was short on specifics, he was big on expectations.
"Our goal is to blow [750 fans per game] out of the water,'' Di Fino said. "We have some really high expectations for attendance.''
"The general fan base is now understanding of what a women's basketball team is capable of, and going to the Final Four, and being a national runner-up, that's different than when coach was trying to build his program and get it to that level he wanted it to,'' Di Fino said. "So now he has a lot of people's attention...those type of theme days produce a lot more attendance, which is awesome.''
Indeed, a quick look at the schedule shows that it’s full of themed days meant to attract casual fans. There’s Women in Business Night, Star Wars Day, and Doggy Dome Day, just to name a few. And Di Fino says ticket sales are already up 300 percent from last season and all courtside seats are gone.
There’s no stop that hasn’t been pulled out. They’re even sending Coach Q to some people’s homes to hand-deliver season tickets. You do what you gotta do...
It’s all great news and all of the ingredients are there for the Orange to attract quality crowds on a regular basis. We’re not talking about trying sniff what the men’s team gets. That’s silly. But a consistent audience of 2,000-3,000 seems like a respectable expectation for one of the best women’s basketball programs in the nation.
We’ll get a taste of what the season will look like, on the floor and in the stands, when the Orange open 2016-2017 play today at 3:00 p.m. against Rhode Island in the Dome.