published Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Wiedmer: Next two games huge for Mocs' record, reception

  • photo
    UTC players Drazen Zlovaric (20) and Ronrico White (11) box a Savannah State player in the corner as head coach John Shulman looks on. The Mocs defeated the Tigers 65-63 Friday night at the McKenzie Arena.
    Photo by Robin Rudd /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

No two college basketball games played at December's dawn should have a lasting impact on any school's season, whether they result in two wins, two losses or one of each.

There's at least 20 games left to be played at that point. A team can go from good to bad, bad to good and back again by the end of the season. It's two games. No more. No less.

That said, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs' next two games at Southern Conference foes Georgia Southern on Thursday night and College of Charleston on Saturday figure to have a huge impact as it pertains to attendance at McKenzie Arena.

Already 2-4 on the season when many Moc Maniacs believed it would stand 4-2, UTC needs to give its fan base reason to hope, if for no other reason than to improve home attendance from this point forward.

Especially after SoCon games take over the schedule in January. So while Mocs coach John Shulman is right that nothing matters when it comes to making the NCAA tournament but three days in March at the SoCon tourney, he's wrong if he doesn't believe every game matters to those who buy season tickets.

"The whole year matters when you talk about attendance, support, revenue," UTC athletic director Rick Hart said Tuesday. "It's not just the season; it's 365 days a year. But it's not just John who's accountable for attendance. I'm accountable. My staff's accountable. We're all looking for ways to maximize our opportunities to create an environment that will make people want to support UTC athletics."

Still, the numbers don't lie. Four home games at McKenzie have drawn just 9,557 total fans, or an average of 2,389 a game. Moreover, after 2,881 took in a somewhat surprising loss to Kennesaw State, the biggest crowd since has been 2,283 for a narrow win over Savannah State last Friday.

Hard as it is to believe, UTC averaged more than twice that figure 15 years ago.

Then again, the home schedule wasn't filled with Warren Wilson, Spalding and Hiwassee in those days, either.

Of course, at those times the Mocs have tried to fill the schedule with name teams -- Oral Roberts and Georgia Tech, to name but two in recent years -- crowds of 5,000 or less have hardly been the stuff to encourage the administration to reach out to bigger names.

Especially when high-major teams such as Tech demand two games at its place for playing one at your gym.

There's also the matter of November and December games in general. At nearly every school in the country not named Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville or Duke, capacity crowds don't gather until after Christmas.

If you don't believe me, try swallowing this announced attendance figure from 11-time national champion UCLA's Monday night game against Pepperdine at the L.A. Sports Arena (the Bruins' Pauley Pavilion is currently under renovation): 3,885.

The Bruins' record after that win: 2-4.

According to Hart, it's not just the winning and losing that alters attendance.

"There are more and more discussions about whether basketball should be moved back to after Thanksgiving," he said. "I'm not saying it will happen, but there's definitely a trend of lower attendance before Christmas throughout the sport. There's definitely a national discussion of pushing the season away from football and the holidays."

That doesn't mean that Hart doesn't think winning plays a role in attendance.

"John's said, 'We're not proud right now,'" Hart said. "And the season certainly hasn't gone the way we hoped in terms of wins and losses. I would guess that's the sentiment of the fans, as well. But we're still pretty early in the season. A lot can change for the better."

And he's right. As Shulman has pointed out more than once, his 2008-09 team -- which started the year 1-7 -- reached the NCAA tourney. Struggle though these Mocs have to win games, they've had a chance to win every game but the opener against Indiana.

Which is yet another reason why this week's games against Georgia Southern and College of Charleston could do so much to lift the morale of both the team and those who support it.

Yet one point Hart made rings true no matter the school.

Said the AD: "You've got to have strong support for football and basketball to be a successful athletic department in the Southern Conference."

And whatever the reasons, an average of 2,389 for men's hoops is a steel-strong reason for frustration and concern.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
please login to post a comment

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

advertisement
advertisement

Find a Business

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.