Lackluster Attendance at the Women's Tournament
RALEIGH, N.C.—As Mike Wise pointed out in his column today, only 2,915 people were at RBC Center on Saturday afternoon to watch as Marissa Coleman put up 42 points and 15 rebounds, and essentially willed her team to a 78-74 victory over Vanderbilt in the round of 16.
That was the ninth-smallest crowd to watch the Terrapins play this season (excluding their Thanksgiving weekend games in Cancun, Mexico). RBC Center also had the smallest attendance of any of the region sites: 10,343 watched Oklahoma play Pittsburgh in nearby Oklahoma City (Ford Center), 6,461 watched Connecticut play California in Trenton, N.J. (Sovereign Bank Arena) and 6,178 saw Stanford top Ohio State in nearby Berkeley, Calif. (Haas Pavilion).
What should the NCAA do to ensure that there are better crowds at these important games?
Raleigh, in theory, should be an area that's receptive to women's basketball: North Carolina State, Duke and North Carolina are nearby, and all have rich traditions. But it seemed as if most of the people at RBC Center on Saturday were fans of a specific team.
Greensboro, N.C., draws enthusiastic crowds for the ACC women's tournament (Maryland played in front of crowds that averaged 9,294 for its three games), but it should be noted that organizers give away hundreds of tickets to local schoolchildren. The ACC tournament is also a destination weekend for fans; I know some Maryland fans who make the trip to Greensboro every year, but were unable to make it back to Raleigh.
I was in this same city and the same arena for the first weekend of the men's tournament last year, following Georgetown, and the two experiences couldn't be more different. RBC Center was filled with raucous crowds for both days of the men's tournament, which featured the Hoyas, North Carolina, Davidson, Indiana, Arkansas, Gonzaga, Mount St. Mary's and UMBC. I had barely any space to work in the media room. Dozens of reporters, photographers and television cameras were there to capture Stephen Curry's magical performance; he scored 40 points in the first round against Gonzaga, and dropped 30 on Georgetown in the second.
The only Washington area television stations that sent crews to Raleigh this year are Comcast SportsNet and WUSA (Channel 9). When the Maryland starters were in the "breakout room" for small group interviews on Sunday, Coleman drew a crowd of...four reporters. Kristi Toliver talked to three or four, while Dee Liles sat by herself and flipped through a media guide.
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