By Elaine Stockdale
Players and crowd look on as Missouri’s Liene Priede has her shot blocked by Tennessee’s Kamiko Williams February 3, 2013 at Mizzou Arena.
When you attend a Missouri men’s basketball game, Mizzou Arena is often filled to capacity with Tiger fans — 15,061 of them. The same can’t be said for the Missouri women’s basketball team, which regularly sees empty seats. Despite the move to the larger Southeastern Conference, the Tigers had a drop in attendance numbers this season.
With an average crowd of 1,536 showing up to SEC games compared to 1,764 last season in the Big 12, the Tigers home crowd average decreased by more than 200. That average is 10 percent of the venue. In the 2011-12 season, Mizzou Arena was filled to 12 percent.
Overall, the NCAA ranked the SEC third highest for 2012 conference attendance for Division 1 – averaging 3,940. The Big 12 leads for highest average attendance with 5,304.
Seven teams from the SEC were ranked in the NCAA Division 1 top 50 teams for attendance in 2012, the most recent figures available. Tennessee ranked first overall with an average of 14,414, which is just under Mizzou Arena’s capacity. Missouri ranked outside the top 50.
Tennessee was the only team to fill its venue to more than half its capacity (52%). When Missouri defeated Tennessee at home on February 3, the Tigers recorded its biggest crowd of the season — 4,181.
|Home game average attendance
||Percent of venue filled
||Home venue and capacity
||Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678)
||27 – 7
||Rupp Arena (23,000)
||30 – 6
||Reed Arena (12,989)
||25 – 10
||Memorial Gymnasium (14,326)
||21 – 12
||Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
||25 – 8
||Pete Maravich Assembly Center (13,215)
||22 – 12
||Stegeman Coliseum (10,523)
||28 – 7
||Auburn Arena (9,121)
||19 – 15
||Bud Walton Arena (19,200)
||20 – 13
||Mizzou Arena (15,061)
||17 – 15
||Humphrey Coliseum (11,000)
||13 – 17
||Stephen C. O’Connell Center (12,000)
||22 – 14
||Foster Auditorium (3,800)
||13 – 18
||C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum (9,061)
||9 – 20
Mizzou Arena opened in 2004 and since then has had an average attendance of 1,733.
The Tigers home venue prior to Mizzou Arena’s opening was the Hearnes Center, with a capacity of 13,611 — 1,450 less than Mizzou Arena. Missouri averaged its highest attendance numbers while playing in the Hearnes Center. Andrew Grinch, associate athletic director for Mizzou Athletics said an NCAA Sweet 16 would have helped in boosting the numbers.
“Between 1997-78 and 2003-04 in the Hearnes Center, we averaged 1,942, its important to note the contribution of the NCAA Sweet 16 run in 2001 while still playing at Hearnes,” Grinch said.
Since 2000, Missouri’s best year for attendance was during the 2001-02 season, a year after making a run to the Sweet 16. The average crowd that year was 2,561. Since then, Missouri’s attendance has consistently decreased.
In 2010, former Missouri coach Cindy Stein was replaced by current coach Robin Pingeton. Missouri had a number of losing seasons under Stein but had one of its best seasons this year. Under Pingeton, the Tigers advanced to the WNIT for the first time since 2006-07, had two wins over top-15 teams and had their first overall winning record (17-15) since 2006-07 (17-14). Missouri also had one of its best home records, finishing 2012-13 with a 14-5 home record.
Pingeton was pleased with fan support and loyalty this season, for what she says is a young and growing program.
“I think our fans have been outstanding. They just really helped us create a home court environment,” Pingeton said. “People are excited about the program. We’ve got very educated fans in this community, and they understand the challenges ahead of us.”
Though there has been a drop in attendance numbers, Missouri had an increase in season tickets sold. Last year, 899 season tickets were sold; this year, Missouri sold 1,053.
Grinch said several factors including an increased marketing effort last year helped push the jump in tickets sold this year.
“I would like to point the continued efforts by Coach Pingeton, her student-athletes and the staff for building up excitement around the program,” Grinch said. “Also, the department implemented a comprehensive campaign last fall, including video, radio and print advertising — as well as grassroots efforts to encourage sales.”
Pingeton believes fans play an important role in the program and sees great things to come.
“I think season tickets going up is outstanding. I know it means a lot for the girls to come out and play out in front of a great crowd and use the energy they bring.”