The WVU Women’s Basketball team has enjoyed great success in the confines of the Coliseum over the years. The problem is, not many people have been there to witness it.
WVU suffers from a lack in attendance in women’s basketball. Head Coach Mike Carey and staff have had to find new ways to put fans in the stands, such as promotional offers, discounts on food and tickets and good ol’ American advertising.
“We have to find a way to make our games more than just a basketball game,” said WVU head coach Mike Carey. “We have to make them an event.”
And an event it must be.
Numbers don’t lie, and while the WVU women’s team has put up substantial numbers in the win column, their fan attendance numbers aren’t exactly staggering. According to the WVU Athletic Department, Marketing and Sales, in the 2008-2009 season, the WVU Women’s Basketball team had a total fan attendance of 26,539, compared to the 147,734 fans that attended WVU Men’s Basketball games. Over the 17 home games the women hosted, their average attendance was just 1,561. The men’s team on the other hand, had an average fan attendance of 10,552 at their 14 home games.
While there is a huge difference in the numbers, Coach Carey has some ideas to help bridge the gap.
“I think that first and foremost, we have to involve corporate sponsors,” said Carey. “We need to target groups that will buy a lot of tickets.”
Along with getting corporate sponsors, Carey wants to seat people closer to the floor, offer season tickets that include a discounted price and special perks and have promotional events for different organizations such as businesses and schools.
“We want to get the city of Morgantown excited about our girls and our upcoming season,” said Carey. “And to do that, you can’t always take from the community, you have to give back.”
While getting the city of Morgantown involved is a top priority, building a stronger relationship with WVU students is just as vital.
Graduate Assistant Kyle Cooper feels that a better awareness needs to be created within the the student body.
“I think that we need to get our players more involved with student functions and events,” said Cooper. “The stronger the relationship is, the more likely students will come out and support us.”
Cooper also believes that giving special deals to students will help boost attendance.
“The overall attitude of students is ‘What can you do for me?’, said Cooper. “We need to give students a reason to start coming to games whether it be handing out free t-shirts or pizza.”
And while low attendance can be detrimental to the players on the team, it can also jeopardize the future of the program. Many fans do not realize the impact it has on recruiting.
“When we bring a potential recruit to one of our games, and the turnout is bad, it can turn them off to our school,” said Carey. “Especially when they visit schools that have crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 fans a night.”
For the upcoming season, Carey wants to hold a free clinic after one of the games. The clinic will be open to the public and will give fans a glimpse into what it is like to be a college basketball player at WVU.
“We want to reach out to the community and get as many people involved as we can,” said Carey.
The WVU Women’s Basketball staff is very hopeful that these efforts will improve the attendance this season.
“Our goal is to have a sold-out coliseum no matter who we play,” said Cooper. ” And we feel we are headed in the right direction.”