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UConn coach Geno Auriemma speaks the truth: "a real spoiled group of fans"

Maya Moore played her final game at Gampel Pavilion in front of 5,729 fans, the lowest attendance of the year.

On Wednesday, University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma was very vocal in his displeasure of those who decided to - or not to - turn out for the Huskies first and second round games in their own backyard.

Coach Geno Auriemma, disappointed that fewer than 6,000 fans showed up at the 10,000-seat Gampel Pavilion for UConn's second-round win over Purdue on Tuesday, said he will ask athletic director Jeff Hathaway not to bid on hosting the tournament for the next five years.

"I think we have a real spoiled group of fans," Auriemma said.

Pat McKenna, a spokesman for the team, said Wednesday that Auriemma was serious about asking not to host the tournament, but has not yet spoken to Hathaway.

Some at UConn are trying to put a positive spin on the low attendance numbers at Gampel over the weekend - ranging from ‘we didn't know there were tickets left' to the economy to oversaturation of the market.

"Of course, you're never really happy unless every ticket is sold," said Mike Enright, UConn's associate athletic director for communications. "We've said all along that no matter what sport you are talking about, times are changing, the economy is different, television coverage is more comprehensive.

"[Falling attendance is] not a problem affecting only UConn. I think what we may be struggling with here is an oversaturation of the market."

John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant has gone a step further in suggesting the problem is that "UConn is taking their fans for granted". Altavilla suggests that the low attendance numbers reflect customer dissatisfaction that UConn is ignoring.

The public is clearly telling UConn and NCAA it will not pay whatever it is being asked to pay to park, watch and buy concessions. That's fairly simple to understand.

UConn can deny it. UConn can keep things the way they are. But UConn would be ignorning the feedback from its customers, if it did. And the customer is always right, unless he is a booster who thinks he knows who the coach should be.

But rather bickering about who's to blame, who's being ungracious and who should or shouldn't be hosting NCAA tournament games, it might be worth redirecting this discussion and actually looking at the numbers. Unfortunately, although the facts should take some of the guesswork out of the story they might also reveal some truths that folks in Storrs probably won't be happy to see.

First, UConn wasn't the only home team to host, so let's take a gander at how the six home teams in the first two rounds fared relative to Huskies in the attendance game.

For these comparisons, UConn will be listed with fellow No. 1 seeds Baylor, Stanford and Tennessee as well as No. 2 Duke and No. 11 Gonzaga. Ohio State also played their games in Columbus, but attendance numbers for their games weren't readily available, hence their absence from the list.

Game-by-game total attendance - NCAA first and second round games:

  • 1. Tennessee vs. Marquette - 9007
  • 2. Baylor vs. West Virginia - 8436
  • 3. Baylor vs. Prairie View A&M - 8368
  • 4. Tennessee vs. Stetson - 7948
  • 5. Stanford vs. UC-Davis - 6515
  • 6. Connecticut vs. Hartford - 6418
  • 7. Stanford vs. St. John's - 5904
  • 8. Gonzaga vs. UCLA - 5804
  • 9. Connecticut vs. Purdue - 5729
  • 10. Gonzaga vs. Iowa - 5632
  • 11. Duke vs. Tennessee-Martin - 4319
  • 12. Duke vs. Marist - 3644

Well, that doesn't make it seem too awful, does it? Middle of the pack, nothing to write home about, but not on the bottom. But as we all know, numbers need context. That context can be seen when you compare these attendance numbers to the regular-season attendance averages. Because after all, wouldn't you expect that an NCAA game would draw as good or better than your run of the mill Tuesday night game during the year?

NCAA attendance vs. regular season attendance (percentage):

  • 1. Gonzaga vs. UCLA - 143.0
  • 2. Gonzaga vs. Iowa - 138.7
  • 3. Stanford vs. UC-Davis - 134.6
  • 4. Stanford vs. St. John's - 122.0
  • 5. Baylor vs. West Virginia - 106.3
  • 6. Baylor vs. Prairie View A&M - 105.5
  • 7. Duke vs. Tennessee-Martin - 82.8
  • 8. Tennessee vs. Marquette - 74.6
  • 9. Connecticut vs. Hartford - 70.7
  • 10. Duke vs. Marist - 69.9
  • 11. Tennessee vs. Stetson - 65.9
  • 12. Connecticut vs. Purdue - 63.1

Perhaps this is what Auriemma is smarting about. Not the exact number, but the comparison to other fanbases. UConn had a middle of the pack raw number, but for a team that averages 9,075 in a 10,027 seat arena (90.5 percent) throughout the season, 63 percent for a tournament game is quite a stark contrast. It's one that would justifiably upset many people and Geno is no exception.

Further supporting Auriemma's disgust, Connecticut's regular season attendance percentage compared to capacity far surpasses each of these other five schools.

Tennessee is the only school that can boast a five-digit average raw attendance: the Lady Vols average 12,069 fans a game, but that's only 55.7 percent of the huge capacity of the Thompson-Boling Arena. UConn's closest competitor is the 77.1 percent of the Farrell Center that the Baylor women occupy on a nightly basis.

Venue capacity:

  • 1. Thompson-Boling Arena (Tennessee) - 21678
  • 2. Farrell Center (Baylor) - 10284
  • 3. Gampel Pavilion (Connecticut) - 10027
  • 4. Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke) - 9314
  • 5. Maples Pavilion (Stanford) - 7233
  • 6. McCarthey Athletic Center (Gonzaga) - 6000

So what's to blame now?

Opponents that don't travel the long distances to help fill the arena? Hartford is less than an hour drive from Storrs, but that game only drew a 70.7 percent capacity crowd.

Ticket prices that are regulated by the NCAA? Wouldn't one of the more well off areas in the US be able to handle a $22 ticket to see the golden girl Maya Moore's very last game in Storrs? Connecticut can't be hurting to the extent that $22 plus an apparent $8 parking charge will bust the bank if it's not stopping people in places like Waco, Texas and Spokane, Washington.

A basketball team taking their fans for granted as has been suggested? Or perhaps Geno hit the nail on the head - fans that expect to host, expect to win and don't expect to be called out when they don't show up.