A couple of weeks ago, Matt Norlander of CBS Sports wrote an article about college hoops attendance during the 2016-2017 season and how regular season attendance dipped from the previous season. In his article, Norlander listed the top 20 programs by per game average attendance:
No real surprises here – Power Five conference schools (from the Big 12, ACC, Big 10, Pac-12, and SEC) that have traditionally been good, dominate the list. But prompted by Syracuse’s #2 ranking, I couldn’t help but think that using the average attendance number for a school’s ranking was an incomplete one. Sure, Syracuse averaged over 21 thousand attendees, per game, but they play in the Carrier Dome, which seats over 34 thousand. That’s over a third of the Carrier Dome’s capacity that – again, on average – goes unfulfilled. Meanwhile, the University of Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse – only the best place to watch a basketball game in the history of basketball – averaged 16,395 fans per game when its capacity is 16,300! (More on that in a bit…)
Although I wouldn’t be so bold as to state that if Allen Fieldhouse’s capacity was 34 thousand it would equal or exceed that number as its average attendance (of course it would), it made me curious to know how those top 20 schools ranked as a percentage of their arena’s capacity – an Attendance Efficiency Percentage, if you will. Calculating a schools Attendance Efficiency Percentage (AEP) was simple – take the school’s average attendance divided by their primary arena’s capacity (pulled from various sources – primarily the school’s and/or arena’s websites). Here’s how the Top 20 schools in average attendance ranked after I calculated their AEP:
Schools could improve or even exceed their capacity by playing some of their designated “home” games at alternative sites, which could have a greater capacity than their usual arenas. Kansas fit this bill with a couple of home away from home games being held at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, which has a capacity of 18,972. Allen Fieldhouse’s 16,300 was still used to determine KU’s AEP however, since the Jayhawks only played a couple of home games in KC last season.
After going through this exercise, I wanted to use the NCAA’s attendance data for all schools and Wikipedia’s list of Division I basketball arenas & their capacity to rank every Division I schools’ AEP, but unfortunately there was enough incorrect seating capacity data in the Wikipedia list of arenas and double-checking each school against other sources was simply too time-consuming for the subscription fee that you, Dear Reader, are paying. I did, however, verify enough schools that below is what I believe to be Division I’s top 20 programs measured by AEP:
Ranking schools by their AEP saw Dayton, Duke, Gonzaga, San Diego State, SMU, VCU, Wichita State and Xavier leap into the top 20, with Arkansas, BYU, Marquette, Maryland, NC State, North Carolina, Syracuse and Tennessee dropping out of it.
As you can see, the state of Kansas is well represented, claiming the top two spots in AEP. Obviously I’m bummed that the Jayhawks ended up being #2 in AEP because of how WSU sold out the one home game they played at the INTRUST Bank Arena, which seats 5000 more than their normal home court (Charles Koch Arena). Oh, well…
After doing this, I then wondered about the (true) away games that KU played in 2016-2017: The Jayhawks are obviously a top draw, but what was the impact on their opponent’s attendance compared to the average?
As you can see, when Kansas comes to town the impact is noticeable as every opponent saw an increase in their attendance, with the overall AEP increasing by over 21%.
Even Kentucky saw an increase, going above capacity, when they played Kansas in 2017. As an aside, KU’s average attendance in the 2015-2016 season was 16,436 and the attendance for the KU-UK game in Lawrence was 16,300. Let the record show that UK is a lesser draw than KU…
Now, taking attendance a step further, for a really detailed view of measuring home court advantages and determining how they impact games, check out the absurd level of data and thought that went into the two posts (Part I and Part II) at KenPom.com, or a summary of the KU perspective at kuhoops.com. Crazy amount of research, there.
In summary, no matter what metric you want to look at regarding attendance, KU is a perennial leader and top draw. Rock Chalk!