In context: A season of sparse crowds at Stegeman

semerson@macon.comMarch 4, 2013 

ATHENS - A bit lost in Georgia's 10-point win over Tennessee on Saturday, a much-needed lift on the court for the Bulldogs, is that it was also by far the best crowd at Stegeman Coliseum this year:

The announced crowd of 9,436 was a few thousand better than the next-best crowd for a Georgia home game this season. It was helped by a decent amount of Tennessee fans, but it was still a very pro-Georgia crowd.

It hasn't been a good year for crowds at Stegeman. Georgia ranks last in the SEC in attendance, at 5,971 per home game. The next-worst is Ole Miss, which is averaging 6,077 despite having an NCAA tournament contender.

The good news for the Bulldogs is their final home game is against Kentucky, which brings a crowd: The Wildcats are averaging more than 14,000 for road games.

But up until these final two games, Georgia was verging on some historical lows for Stegeman Coliseum: The last time there was a worse season attendance average was 20 years ago, when 5,958 showed up per game for a team that went 15-14. Prior to that, the worst year for attendance was 1977-78, when only 4,808 fans showed up for a team that went 11-16. The next year Hugh Durham was hired.

So how related is the attendance to the performance of the team? One way to gauge that is by computing “fans per win,” as in attendance that season divided by victories. Fans per win this year in the SEC:

Kentucky: 1,212.0
Tennessee: 1,006.1
Mississippi State: 844.6
Vanderbilt: 820.2
Arkansas: 787.8
Auburn: 701.1
South Carolina: 665.2
Alabama: 598.4
Missouri: 562.1
Florida: 464.8
Georgia: 426.5
LSU: 440.9
Texas A&M: 426.7
Ole Miss: 371.7

As you can see, it's an imperfect method of gauging fan support: Auburn, for instance, is third-worst in overall attendance, but is much higher in fans-per-win because it has so few wins. Florida’s number may seem low, but the O’Connell Center only seats 12,000, so the Gators are drawing at almost 90 percent of capacity. Stegeman Coliseum seats 10,523, so this season the Bulldogs are barely drawing over 50 percent.

Still, here is Georgia’s fans-per-win average over the years (postseason wins are not included in the formula):

2011-12: 505.6
2010-11: 392.9
2009-10: 525.7
2008-09: 556.5
2007-08: 601.8
2006-07: 431.5
2005-06: 474.3
2004-05: 773.6
2003-04: 615.6
2002-03: 518.8
2001-02: 431.6
2000-01: 501.6
1999-00: 677.7

Two years ago, Georgia had a team that won 21 games and made the NCAA tournament. Georgia averaged 8,250 fans – which was still only eighth in the conference.

Last year Georgia went 15-17, and its attendance was 7,079, which was 10th in the final year of the 12-team SEC.

It should be noted that attendance is down overall this year: The average home attendance in the SEC last year was 11,430 per game. This year it’s 10,518 per game.

In Georgia's case, a 2-7 start to the season certainly didn't help. That was the time of year when football still had everyone's attention, so casual fans probably were turned off by the poor start.

Then again, when Georgia went on a five-game winning streak in SEC play, it came home to another sub-par crowd, only 5,385. So wins and losses appear to only be part of the story.

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Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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