Last spring, when the NCAA released its 2009-10 college basketball attendance data, the conflicting numbers seemed to say two things at once: College hoops attendance was both down and up.
Of course, that wasn't true. In 2010, over 27 million people attended a college basketball game, the fourth-highest total in NCAA history. But because that number was spread across a larger-than-ever group of Division I schools, average attendance dipped by about three percent despite the sport's total gain.
Twelve months and one rather thrilling season later, the NCAA has released an updated set of data. Where does Division I college hoops attendance stand now?
The answer: Pretty much where it was in 2010. According to the NCAA, 27,626,125 fans showed up for D-I hoops games over the course of the 2010-11 season. That's an increase of 86,706 total fans from last season's tally. But the overall D-I attendance average figure took the slightest of dips: An average of eight fewer fans attended all D-I hoops events this year compared to 2010.
You can break this down further, if you're so inclined, by enlarging this handy chart. Among the notables are a slight year-over-year decline in NCAA tournament attendance and a more pronounced decline in 2010-11 Division I home game attendance.
Both of which are, to be frank, no big deal. That goes for the overall numbers, too. Sure, the NCAA might like to show a greater average fan increase. It would surely also prefer to show an increase in NCAA tournament attendance. But an overall increase isn't so bad itself, and when you factor in such a large number of schools -- 335 this season, the most of any year by the NCAA's count -- a tiny decrease in average fan attendance is hardly something to fret over. Frankly, it's the cost of doing business at a 335-school scale. Not every Division I gym is Rupp Arena or the Carrier Dome; some schools just play in tiny and poorly attended environments. Oh well. (Plus, the NCAA record an all-time high -- 1,788,364 fans over 235 games -- in non-NCAA tournament neutral-site attendance. So that's something.)
Oh, and speaking of Rupp Arena, the NCAA also released the individual attendance rankings. You'll never guess who came in first. OK, so you probably will; it was Kentucky. Big Blue Nation packed Rupp to the tune 23,603 fans per game, the highest average mark in the country. Syracuse came in second with 22,312; Louisville, North Carolina and Tennessee round out the top five.
Here's an interesting tidbit: Coming in at No. 6 in the nation was BYU, which was one of only two schools to experience an average home attendance increased of greater than 4,000 fans. The other? San Diego State. The power of The Jimmer (and/or Kawhi Leonard) strikes again.
In any case, there are your 2010-11 attendance numbers. Not great. Not bad. Not showing off. Right in the meat of the curve.
In an age where college basketball seems constantly besieged by rumors of its popular demise, there are no sweeping conclusions to be drawn here. George Costanza would have been proud.