For a national powerhouse with such a rich history, the Georgetown men’s basketball team has a surprisingly low game attendance rate. Over the past three seasons, attendance at Verizon Center has hovered around 9,500 per game, which is only 45 percent of the arena’s 20,500 seats. In comparison, Big East rivals Marquette and Creighton average more than 13,000 and 17,000 fans per game, respectively.
In the minds of casual sports fans, Georgetown is a school known almost exclusively for its men’s basketball team. Attendance that low, especially relative to that of other powerhouse schools, is frankly a disappointment. Verizon Center is not the only NBA arena also used for college games — Marquette plays its games at the Bradley Center, home to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
Moreover, almost two-thirds of the 19 teams that have made five or more Final Four appearances (Georgetown has five) average higher game attendance than Georgetown. Among the few schools with lower attendance than Georgetown is Duke. However, the Blue Devils’ season attendance is lower only because of the size of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Despite its smaller 9,314-seat capacity, Duke consistently packs the stands and averages 100 percent attendance season after season.
The reasons for such low attendance can be attributed to many factors, including our low student population in comparison to bigger universities, the inaccessibility of Verizon Center from Georgetown’s campus — especially on weekends — and perhaps most notably, the high-stress environment of the university as a whole. Of the most prestigious basketball programs in the country, Duke and Georgetown regularly rank the highest in national college rankings as well as in stress-level tests.
With an all-work, no-play attitude on weekdays that is seemingly ubiquitous across campus, it should not come as a surprise to see our attendance numbers so low. Our games are scheduled around both the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals, leaving Georgetown basketball with inconvenient game times for busy students. Perhaps the culture that Georgetown cultivates is simply one that does not prioritize sporting events over schoolwork.
And to most students’ credit, why would they? The extra three hours that they spend doing work or studying for a test makes a lot more of a difference than what they would get out of a basketball game.
On the other hand, there really is no other environment quite like a Georgetown basketball game. The truth is that the Hilltop is nothing like a big state school, or even a well-rounded private school in terms of tailgating and overall enthusiasm for athletics. Most students here could not even say where Georgetown’s baseball team plays its games. The biggest football tailgate of the year on Homecoming Weekend gets most of its crowd from former students. Basketball games are really the only thing we have that resemble the all-out, cheer-until-you-drop atmosphere that most people associate with sports. And even then, looking past the student section and the Stonewalls — the Alumni-only section at Verizon Center — there’s not much along the lines of filled seats.
In the fans’ defense, I could argue that our team just isn’t that good, which would be a lie — especially considering that the year Georgetown went to the Final Four in 2007 with a team that had two future NBA starters in Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert, our attendance was hardly better, averaging only around 10,400 fans per game. The next few years were a little better, with a steady 12,000 fans making their way to each Georgetown game. However, as the team continued its pattern of early exits from the NCAA tournament, attendance began to decline.
Maybe this year will be different, but it does not look like that will be the case. Georgetown basketball will have to prove itself not only to pundits and critics in every season since 2008, but also to its fans. It is a rare occasion to see Verizon Center filled to the brim with fans bleeding Hoya blue. Last year it happened twice — for games against Kansas and Villanova. This year it will likely be twice again — for contests with Syracuse and Villanova.
The college basketball season is just around the corner, and the Hoyas seem poised to make some noise earlier than expected. But what good is a tree falling in the forest if there is no one there to hear it?
As a self-proclaimed “sports guy,” I like being right about things. But I hope Georgetown’s fans prove me wrong.
Paolo Santamaria is a sophomore in the College. Saxa Synergy appears every Friday.
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