The NCAA released its annual basketball attendance report this week, and Syracuse basketball fans had to look past the top spot to find their team. SU failed to repeat as the nation’s leader in attendance, as Kentucky reclaimed that title after the Orange ended the Wildcats’ eight-year run by taking the crown in each of the past two seasons.
UK averaged 23,361 fans at home games, while Syracuse drew 21,592. Throughout the season, Kentucky sold over 30,000 more tickets than SU — but if the Orange had matched its attendance from 2014-15, it would have held on to the top spot.
Syracuse’s average attendance was down nearly 10 percent, falling from 23,854. The Carrier Dome didn’t shrink, so why did the program lose more than 2,000 fans per game?
It starts with a weak schedule. The Orange didn’t host many marquee opponents, and most students couldn’t even attend the season’s biggest home game, because North Carolina visited Central New York on January 9 — during winter break. Under normal circumstances, that matchup likely would have drawn at least 30,000 Orange supporters, but only 26,811 seats were filled.
The Dome didn’t sniff full capacity for any game; the February tilt against Pittsburgh, the campaign’s top contest in terms of attendance, attracted 28,696 fans. It was the first season since 2001-02 during which no game drew 30,000 attendees.
SU mostly squared off against blue-chip programs on the road — Jim Boeheim’s bunch traveled to face Duke, Louisville, and Virginia. Syracuse also visited St. John’s and Georgetown, two of its biggest rivals.
Along with the poor slate, the Orange simply wasn’t that good last season. Before the team rolled to the Final Four, it sat squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, one year after SU’s worst campaign in a long time.
Expect Syracuse to push for the attendance title next season, when those games against Duke, Louisville, and Virginia are played in the Carrier Dome. And despite the loss of Malachi Richardson, there’s still plenty of excitement surrounding the new-look Orange.