When the Football Season is subpar, is Basketball the Therapy?
Basketball is clearly second fiddle at Georgia and general perception is that it is just a distraction from a terrible Football season for the Georgia fan base. After all, it is a struggle to get fans to attend games – even NCAA Tournament games against Power Conference programs drew less fans than one section at the 2010 Liberty Bowl. What role does Football play as far as Basketball attendance and how non-committal have Georgia fans been to the Basketball program in the past decade?
Well, the data has been dug up and it is not pretty.
In the above graph is a decade of Georgia Basketball attendance juxtaposed with the winning percentages of the Georgia Football Team during the same school year and the winning percentage of the Basketball Team. The peak average attendance per game at Stegeman Coliseum was experienced in 2010-11, which happened to be an NCAA Tournament team and the second highest happened to be an NCAA Tournament team that nobody realized would eventually become an NCAA Tournament Team in 2007-08. The highest attendance of Georgia Basketball games during the Football Season also happened to be 2007-08.
The 2007-08 Home Slate was quite a gauntlet with Jacksonville State, Grambling, Elon, Delaware State, Augusta State, Wake Forest (17-13 season in the wake of Skip Prosser’s untimely death) and Presbyterian. This particular season also featured near sellouts for the Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Kentucky games. Bruce Pearl really knew how to draw a road crowd to Stegeman Coliseum and turn the upper deck orange. With Pearl at Auburn, the return of busing fans to Athens could once again return if UGA fans do not show their support. Pearl was not the only one that enjoyed bringing a large brigade of fans to Stegeman Coliseum during this era, Florida and Kentucky had very large turnouts as well. Kentucky is the only program that continues to pack road venues with their fans in considerable numbers, a few even going to the extreme of buying UGA season tickets and making donations just to land lower bowl seats.
For all the progress made with the program, the attendance for the Georgia-Southern Football game will likely have a greater percentage of tickets sold than for the Georgia-Florida game at Stegeman Coliseum. Last season, UGA had three sold out games: Florida, Kentucky and Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers. It was an improvement over the 2013-14 season that featured two sellouts, but clearly only the Ole Miss game was actually filled to capacity by photographic evidence. Many of the fans that had Georgia-Georgia Tech tickets decided to trek to Auburn and there were a lot of a vacant rows in this clash. The so-called sellout crowd from that Tech game actually pushed the 2013-14 Basketball Team’s Football Season attendance higher than the more accomplished 2014-15 team that was actually expected to make the NCAA Tournament in the preseason.
Tech did not play a significant role as far as Georgia’s attendance in 2011 as the Jackets only drew 7,620 fans and in 2010 only 6,275 fans bothered to come to the Georgia-Georgia Tech game in Athens.
To quote Tony Schiavone in a completely out of context fashion: What “puts those butts in the seats”?
If it is not obvious, winning during the Football Season will lead to the bandwagon effect immediately after the bowl game. During the past decade, Georgia Basketball teams with a winning percentage greater than or equal to 70% have had an average season attendance of over 7,000 fans per game. Granted, not all of these fans that bought tickets actually show up, but this is all strictly by the numbers. With Georgia Basketball, the fans will appear if the team wins early, which is completely unlike Georgia Football where regardless of record the game is almost always a sellout. Georgia Basketball attracts the bandwagoners, Georgia Football requires the commitment.
Does Georgia Football factor into Georgia Basketball attendance in any way?
It does to an extent. In 2007-08, the sense of optimism around Georgia Football after the Sugar Bowl victory combined with the above 70% winning percentage during Football Season and the expectations set in the preseason after the NIT berth in 2007 helped contribute to the sellouts. Comparing 2007-08 attendance to 2014-15 is not exactly positive though. The win over Ole Miss at home in 2014-15 only had 6,079 tickets sold, but a loss to Ole Miss in the depressing season finale of 2007-08 had 7,774 tickets sold.
The 2010-11 Season featured an NCAA Tournament team and happened to be the most attended team of the decade. The post-Liberty Bowl slate of games averaged 9,759 tickets sold per game, which is 92.7% of the capacity of Stegeman Coliseum. The season featured four sellout games in a row against Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Florida. Two other games against Auburn and South Carolina were in near sellout conditions. The Football Team went 6-7 and passion and pride for Georgia Basketball during the regular season was the healthiest outlet for fans that had the blues. The only other team that could possibly match the attendance of 2010-11 in a bandwagon fashion was the 2006-07 team that had passionate tilts at Stegeman Coliseum and averaged 9,476 tickets sold per game during the SEC slate including three straight sellouts and two near sellouts against Auburn and Tennessee.
After examining the correlation between the record of the Georgia Football Team and average attendance per Basketball Game at Stegeman Coliseum over the past ten years, there is shown to be a barely moderate negative correlation between the two figures. The correlation comes out to -.307 (rounded to the thousandth). Understand that this is a rather small sample of data, but it is still points to a negative correlation (not causation) between the success of Georgia Football and attendance of Georgia Basketball games.
The correlation between Georgia Basketball attendance over the course of the season and the Basketball Team’s winning percentage during Football Season is .866, which is a very strong positive correlation. The correlation between the Basketball Team’s overall winning percentage and attendance is actually weaker with a correlation of .529, which makes it a moderate positive correlation. How Georgia Basketball plays during non-conference play will matter a whole lot more as far as overall attendance is concerned. If Georgia can find a way to go undefeated before the start of the SEC slate, Stegeman Coliseum is going to be deafening especially with the acoustics. John Calipari may be very glad he’s not visiting Athens this season, but he usually does not enjoy playing in Athens anyway. He has been known to warn his guys about how loud Stegeman can get after pre-game warmups.
Just for the heck of it, the correlation between Georgia’s success on the Football Field and on the Basketball Court have over the past decade is actually a moderate negative correlation of -.464. Georgia Football and Basketball are rarely good at the same time. It is possible that Georgia Football and Basketball could both have big years, but the past decade’s statistics tell a different story. It is up to both teams to buck that trend.
Attendance against the SEC and Non-Conference Rivals at Stegeman Coliseum
It makes sense that UK draws the largest crowds due to the influx of fans that they bring and because they are Big Bad Kentucky, but notice the attendance figures for Tennessee and then the previous season for Auburn, it is obvious that Bruce Pearl draws a crowd. Georgia only sold out one game of the last five with Georgia Tech. Generally speaking, the Georgia-South Carolina rivalry that has been created by the SEC has largely been a dud as far as attendance.
How did the attendance of the Ole Miss game in 2014 drop off from a sellout to such a poor turnout against an NCAA Tournament Team that has provided classic games against the Dawgs over the past three seasons? Marshall Henderson graduated.
Auburn will replace Tennessee in the rivalry hierarchy in terms of basketball and it was encouraging that the Florida game sold out because the 2013 game had a depressing turnout.
Let’s see if both sets of Dawgs can buck the trends of the past by succeeding and having large attendance figures.