It’s no secret that college basketball has been struggling lately.
What was maybe a faux pas to actually publicize five years ago has turned into something so obvious it can’t be ignored any longer.
Ardent fans and the media are frequently disappointed in the quality of play projected onto our TV screens, and the casual fan seems to just tune out until March, with some of the those people treating the tournament like the Olympics or World Cup. They know next to nothing when it comes to the best teams or players, but watch because of the moments the Tournament can create.
Unfortunately, because the talent level has become frighteningly shallow the overall interest level has waned. Now, almost an entire generation of adolescents have grown up since college basketball was on par or above college football in interest, and today’s young Americas prefer to run around with the pigskin instead of learning how to dribble with their left hand.
With overall attendance in college basketball declining, what better time than to rip the sport than entering their post-season!
Courtesy of USA Today’s Steve Wieberg, whose article appeared front-and-center on page A1 of the paper’s weekend addition:
Total attendance a year ago hit a five-year low despite an expanded field and one additional session. Regionals in Newark, New Orleans, San Antonio and Anaheim drew 77.1% of capacity, the lowest since the NCAA started tracking those numbers in 1989.
The attendance dip has been particularly notable during the regular season, with average Division I crowds dropping each of the last four years. The NCAA won’t release numbers for 2011-12 until after the tournament, but USA TODAY’s calculations show another slight dip across the six biggest-name conferences — the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern. Their collective average is down almost 6% in four years.
Wieberg is no doubt correct, but in the piece he completely neglects to get to the root of the problem: college basketball simply is nowhere near as cool as college football right now.
Football is king in this country, and no where is that more true than on our college campuses (save for roughly a dozen major universities), whose lifeblood is a handful of home games each fall.
Why is football king?
Sparing you the dissertation, the simple answer because basketball isn’t approached as the ultimate weekly event communities plan their week around.
Think about it.
Tailgating breeds socializing, socializing breeds drinking, drinking breeds female sports fans, and female sports fans jumping on the bandwagon of a sports team makes sports more fun.
Welcome to the ESPN College Football Gameday era, where it’s hardly even about the game.
The excitement of having pride in your school and enjoying a sunny autumn afternoon works perfectly for someone who isn’t even really that interested in sports. It’s just an excuse to get out and rage!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love college football. I watch it every Saturday. I watch Gameday every Saturday, too, and by no means do I broach this touchy issue with jealousy or anger. But the week’s worth of hype and build up that culminates with spirited revelry anyone aged 18-78 can get up for is something that just cannot be replicated in college basketball. And that bums me out.
With multiple games a week played at different times in the day, and with the weather predominately chilly outside, the idea of throngs of friends and family gathering to celebrate college basketball the way they celebrate football just isn’t going to happen.
It’s hard to say at this point whether this is cyclical nature or a serious concern the NCAA needs to address. But even if college basketball needs an intervention, it would take years to get back to the success it had in the early to mid 90s.
Right now, you have to really love basketball to be a true college basketball fan and the game is currently losing that battle.
Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN