UConn's 9 p.m. start equals 3,486 fans. What can be done?
STORRS: Looking around at the Grand Canyon-type of room there at Gampel Pavilion for the UConn women’s Second Round game against Rutgers, a game it cruised to a 91-55 win and a their 22nd consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, one might start to wonder where everybody has gone.
You have a women’s basketball program on the verge of vying for their 10th National Championship if they can go on a four-game winning streak over the next two weeks, and they play their last home game of the season, the last time they could see both Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kiah Stokes in a venue that they gave their fans so many memories and there are about 3,000 people in the stands.
Now granted, this was the feature game on this night on ESPN and the money generated from TV has been known to drive the bus in college sports.
But 3,000? How could this make the head coach of the Huskies, Geno Auriemma feel about the big picture?
Our friend from the Hartford Courant, Jeff Jacobs, asked the question of Auriemma.
“It’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’s last game here, she’s about to break the all-time record for three pointers. You’re going for a three-peat and there’s 3,000 people here tonight. Is it going to take an 11 o’clock start next year with 1,500 people to come for Breanna Stewart’s last game to maybe make something happen?”
A great question that the head coach sometimes like to shy a bit away from because it tends to get him in trouble but he dove in anyway.
“Maybe it’s the nine o’clock start,” Auriemma said, “maybe it’s not. I said it the other day that I understand that they want us to be the key match up on television so it’s TV driven. It makes all the sense in the world. You know, Stanford played at 6:30, which is 3:30 their time and we play at nine. That’s logical. But that’s the world that we live in. I don’t like it, believe me, I don’t like it. I don’t like playing nine o’clock games, I really don’t.”
While the head coach may not like it, he tries to understand his fan bases way of looking at the big picture.
“But you know, I gotta tell you too, we talked about this on our staff and one of the writers brought it up that back in the day it took two days to sell out our game against Brown for the NCAA Tournament. I think people just, I guess its human nature, not for me to judge one way or another. Everybody bought .their tickets to Albany a long time ago and everybody bought their tickets to Tampa a long time ago.”
Figuring that the team is automatically going to punch their ticket to the next couple of rounds, perhaps fans take these games a bit for granted.
“To them this is just an exercise to that end. So I don’t know that maybe we could help ourselves a little better with you know, a four o’clock game on a weekend. We could play anybody at four o’clock and get 10,000. We’ve done that the last two years. But these games have been a problem for a long time, these late starts and taking into consideration that everybody is looking ahead. They have X amount of money and they’re spending in Tampa or they’re spending it in Albany. What are you going to do? It’s our fault.”
The Huskies are so good, and the results of these games is hardly ever in doubt so why would fans show up?
Has the State of Connecticut gotten so spoiled that we take the everyday action for granted?
There are tremendous basketball players on the Huskies, have been for a good long time now.
As you watch them go work through the game, it’s not hard to notice that not only are they the best players any court they step foot on, they outwork, outhustle and outplay their opponents on a nightly (they would like daily) basis.
It’s a shame that more fans don’t show up.
If you turned on the South Carolina game on Sunday afternoon, you saw a packed house that was truly into the action.
Is it because it’s so new to them? Perhaps.
Connecticut fans should be careful not to assume that this greatness will go on forever.
With a little help from the TV folks, maybe we can help get a few more fannies in the seats.