There were plenty of empty seats at Rupp Arena last night, and while it’s easy to pinpoint the reasons why, there’s no denying that attendance this season is down. Through six home games, Kentucky’s attendance at Rupp has dropped almost 15% from last year’s average of 23,461. Even if you compare the numbers to six of the first seven home games last season (I omitted UCLA because it’s a marquee opponent), attendance is down 10%.
Average attendance through six home games in 2017-18: 20,092
- Utah Valley: 19,807
- Vermont: 20,174
- ETSU: 20,168
- Troy: 19,548
- Fort Wayne: 20,645
- UIC: 20,212
Last year (omitted UCLA because it’s a marquee opponent): 22,265
- SFA: 22,683
- Canisius: 22,009
- Duquesne: 21,327
- Cleveland State: 22,441
- UT-Martin: 23,324
- Valparaiso: 21,805
We’ve discussed the reasons why attendance is down this year ad nauseam: weak non-conference home schedule, terrible timing (Friday and Sunday games are not ideal), increase in student ticket prices, the convenience of watching on TV at home, and a general decline in interest in this year’s very young squad. When asked about it last night, John Calipari said he’s noticed the trend, but pointed out Kentucky still has the highest home attendance in the country (they’ve led the nation 19 of the past 22 seasons).
“Sunday at six,” Cal said when asked why there were a lot of empty seats last night. “TV. This is a fun team to watch and I think people will — they will come here. Our attendance is down and it’s really sad because we’re No. 1 in the country in attendance and — we’re No. 1 in the country in attendance. It’s kind of like you guys saying to me, ‘Cal, you only won by 22, can you tell me what’s wrong with the Cats?’ I think people will jump in and do it. And some of it is students — Sunday night. I’m not — we have a large student section and I think they’re trying to do something with some of the student tickets. But I get it. I mean there’s some games I don’t feel like coming and I got to come here anyway, geez.”
He echoed those comments on the radio a few minutes later.
“[The media] said we’re having low attendance. Attendance hasn’t been as high. Well, you’re right. We’re No. 1 in the country in attendance, we’re just not as high as we’ve been. That’s kind of like when we win by 16 and you people are mad we don’t win by 25. We’re No. 1 in attendance. And there are games I don’t feel like coming to, so I get it. The issue with us is never going to be our fans. That’s the strength of this program.”
Hopefully as the schedule levels out and conference play approaches, the numbers will go up. As Calipari said, this team is fun, and you really can see them progress from game to game.