Cleveland, Ohio — Following a three-year decline, the Cleveland State University men’s basketball team saw a slight increase in total attendance in the 2017-18 season, but again fell in other categories.
Total attendance this season grew just over four percent from the 2016-17 campaign, from 18,195 to 18,946. CSU, however, finished eighth out of 10 teams in total attendance, ahead of just IUPUI and Detroit Mercy.
At the beginning of the season, Head Coach Dennis Felton and some of his players made strong efforts to rally the community around the new-look program. Felton said shortly after his hiring that he wanted to focus on getting engaged with the community.
CSU’s highest attended game was the home opener against Coppin State, which drew 1,931. CSU made marketing pushes, including advertisements on local radio stations, in an attempt to bring people into the Wolstein Center, and it was a step in the right direction. This season’s home opener was the highest attended home opener since 2013.
After that game, Felton said that the program pushed hard to get fans — especially students — to the game, and he was happy with the turnout and felt that his team — which won the game — gave the fans a reason to come back.
However, as the marketing stopped, so did the momentary step in the right direction.
Unfortunately for CSU, total attendance was the only category in which attendance numbers saw an increase.
This increase was due to CSU playing one extra home game this season. Because of the extra game and the modest growth in total attendance, the average attendance per game actually fell for the fourth straight season.
Average attendance dropped by a very small margin, from 1,400 per game in 2016-17 to 1,353 in 2017-18. The drop was not as drastic as the drop from 2015-16 to 2016-17.
The closeness in average attendance reflects the closeness in team performance between the two seasons. CSU picked up seven of its eight wins this season at home to finish .500 at the Wolstein Center. The team went 7-6 at home last season.
Even though the team did not perform badly at home, it has only combined for three road wins in the past two seasons. With one left to play this season, the team has removed it from contending for a regular-season championship, which gives home games less meaning.
The story was much the same when the team played Horizon League opponents.
Total attendance and average attendance per game against Horizon League foes dropped 8.7 percent from the 2016-17 season.
Total attendance dropped by 1,156. Since these are in-league games, the team played the same number of games each year. The only difference between the two seasons was that last season, the team played Valparaiso (which is now in the Missouri Valley Conference). This season, CSU played IUPUI, which is in its first year as a Horizon League program.
The 2016-17 attendance for the home game against Valparaiso was 1,831. The home attendance for this season’s home game against IUPUI was 1,125. Valparaiso was the known powerhouse of the Horizon League, while IUPUI was projected to be one of the worst teams in the league.
After the team’s final home game, Felton again expressed gratitude for the fans who were there throughout the season, and mentioned that he is excited about the team’s future.
In an interview done last year with Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Promotions Brandon Longmeier and Director of Ticketing and Fan Development Carrie Neville, both said that winning would ultimately brings more fans to game.
While the past few seasons have been less than favorable for the program on the ticketing and attendance front, the strong core of young players from this season’s team, coupled with what many believe is a strong recruiting class for next season, could point to a turnaround in the near future.
Photo by Matthew Johns