Arizona Basketball

TV scheduling, poor play all part of fan apathy in Pac-12

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This is more the norm than the exception at UCLA and in the Pac-12 this season:
PauleyPavilion

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PAC-12 AVERAGE ATTENDANCE/CAPACITY
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Arizona is playing tonight in Corvallis, Ore., at 7 p.m. on a Sunday for the Pac-12’s partnership with Fox Sports 1, not for the student-athletes and the fans.

In what is becoming a tired subject, Arizona’s traveling party will be on the road entirely too long. It will be in the state of Oregon for parts of six days to play only two games. The Wildcats arrived in Oregon last Wednesday. They will return to Tucson on Monday. The almighty TV dollar makes it that way.

The fans-be-damned scheduling does not help the Pac-12’s embarrassing attendance averages. Who will care to attend the Stanford-USC game tonight at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center? Los Angeles has much more to offer, even on a Sunday evening. The empty seats on ESPNU will be an eyesore.

The lack of attendance in the conference is becoming a running joke.

When the Pac-12 Networks showed highlights of UCLA’s game with Stanford on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion, analyst Kevin O’Neill quipped about the empty atmosphere: “Even half of the band didn’t show up.”

The announced crowd was 7,379 in the 12,819-seat facility. That was actually one of the better attended games this season at Pauley Pavilion. An average of only 6,657 has shown up for the nine games in the house John Wooden built.

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No surprise here: Arizona leads the conference filling McKale Center to 99.9 percent of its capacity in the Wildcats’ nine home games. An average of 14,534 has filled the 14,545-seat arena. Arizona has led the Pac-12 in attendance every year since
1984-85, a streak of 30 consecutive seasons.

The Pac-12’s newest additions — Colorado and Utah — are next in arena capacity percentage.

Colorado is No. 2 with a percentage of 86.9 in 11,064-seat Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo. That’s an impressive percentage inasmuch as the Buffaloes are struggling with an uncharacteristic record of 9-6 under Tad Boyle.

Utah, on the other hand, is filling the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City to only 73.6 percent capacity despite the Utes’ No. 9 ranking and 13-2 overall record.

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The rest of the teams are at a dismal 60.4 percent or lower.

UCLA is at a miserable 51.9 percent with an average attendance of 6,657 at Pauley Pavilion, once considered the mecca of the conference.

Oregon State’s Gill Coliseum, which Arizona visits tonight, was once the most raucous place in the conference when Ralph Miller coached there. Now the Beavers are drawing only 39.7 percent of capacity at the 10,400-seat arena.

When Arizona comes to town the attendance generally spikes. The average attendance at Pac-12 schools increased by 30 percent in 2013-14 when the Wildcats visited. Thursday’s game at Matthew Knight Arena at Oregon drew 8,829 fans, an increase of more than 3,000 from its average attendance of only 5,813.

When ASU visited on Saturday, the crowd was back to normal with only 5,637 fans attending in the 12,369-seat arena.

Hard to believe: Oregon plays its first true road game of the season Thursday at Washington State. That fact should come with an asterisk. The Cougars are drawing a league-worst 1,956 fans a game at the 11,671-seat Friel Court in Pullman, Wash.

The Pac-12’s meager attendance overall is nothing new but the amount of empty seats is always an embarrassment, especially compared to other conferences.

The league ranked No. 8 in average attendance last season with the other Power 5 teams represented among the top four: Big Ten (average attendance of 13,534), ACC (10,661), Big 12 (10,489) and SEC (10,353).

The Pac-12’s average of 7,546 last season ranked behind the Big East (9,711), American Athletic (8,776) and Mountain West (7,730).

The conference is averaging almost 1,000 fewer fans a game this season with the figure at 6,598.

This should be alarming to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who should incorporate the fan more into his scheduling philosophies when it comes to television.

At 8 p.m. tonight, folks in Tucson will be tuned in to the Arizona-Oregon State game with an eye on their bed to wake up for work early Monday morning.

Gill Coliseum will not be at capacity. At least the game won’t coincide with the NFL playoff games, but that should not matter. If that is an issue, the conference truly is not one with a passion for basketball. It does not belong among the elite in terms of fanfare, which is so important for college athletics.

Meanwhile, on the East coast it will be 10 p.m. at tipoff. Good luck drawing a national interest for the game. Dick Vitale will probably be snoring by about that time.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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