published Thursday, March 10th, 2011

SoCon tournament attendance falters

The event at McKenzie Arena drew 21,130 and organizers say they will not break even financially.

Out like a lamb.

The 2011 Southern Conference men’s basketball tournament that concluded Monday night had a total attendance 21,130, the event’s second smallest audience in the past decade. McKenzie Arena hosted the SoCon tournament for a third and potentially final time, and this was the first in which the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga failed to play in the championship game.

UTC was eliminated in Saturday night’s quarterfinals by Furman before a tournament-high crowd of 5,597.

“It’s not something that we’re disappointed about,” SoCon senior associate commissioner Geoff Cabe said Wednesday. “You always want to have large crowds, but we are kind of dependent on the teams with the biggest followings advancing. That’s kind of been the history of our tournament, and it will continue to be the history of our tournament.”

The previous two SoCon tournaments in Chattanooga were staged in 2005 and ’09, and each had a total attendance in excess of 24,500. Wofford’s win over the College of Charleston on Monday was played in front of just 3,374, and the lack of walkup crowds both Sunday and Monday has Greater Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee president Scott Smith readjusting an earlier projection.

Smith had hoped to come close to breaking even but now fears there could be a loss of $20,000 or more once all the expenses are in, and that factors in the $50,000 reduction the league gave the committee this year for agreeing to move last year’s event to Charlotte.

“There will definitely be a financial loss,” Smith said. “I’m not too excited.”

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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mjones said...

Maybe not starting the championship game at 9 p.m. on a Monday night would help get fans. Or maybe if you're going to schedule the entire event around a TV contract with ESPN, then Chattanooga should get a slice of that TV $$$$ to offset losses incurred because you're playing the title game at 9 p.m. on a Monday night.

March 10, 2011 at 9:49 a.m.
NorthChatter said...

Sadly, there is no "TV $$$$"...smaller conferences like the SoCon are "lucky" that ESPN shows their championship game. The conference gets zero dollars from ESPN (just the benefit of national exposure) and they pretty much have no say as to when the game is shown.

It's ESPN's world, we sports fans are just living in it. That's what happens when one network dominates the market.

And honestly, even if the game was at 7pm, it may have brought a few hundred more, but nothing significant. The reality is, you just aren't going to get a big crowd if a Chattanooga team is not involved. The Sports Committee knew that gamble when they bid.

March 10, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.
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