I am currently watching the NCAA Tournament, with the Oklahoma-Syracuse game being played in my area. This game is being played in Memphis. As I sit, I notice two things.
One, there are a ton of empty seats, and two, there is plenty of Carolina blue, since they play the next game.
This made me think of whether or not people are even going to these games?
In 2002 I went to first round games at the TWA dome in St. Louis. The big draws were Kentucky, Marquette, Kansas, and Stanford. Regionally Kansas and Tulsa were the closest two teams there, and it showed because the fan base stood out in the crowd, and Kentucky brought in quite a few, including Ashley Judd.
The bottom line with my experience here is that there were between 25 and 30 thousand people a session.
Flash forward to 2007, United Center in Chicago for the first round. I was there covering the Badgers, who drew huge, being just 2 hours away. Also in this group was Kansas, Kentucky, UNLV, and Georgia Tech.
Looking back, I would say that between 20 and 25 thousand showed up to each session.
Now to the current situation. The NCAA has been trying for years to actually "regionalize" the regionals, so that teams can play closer to home. This year it was especially important with the slumping economy. But, in looking at the bracket, do you think they succeeded? I say no.
The main example being the Miami bracket last weekend. They barely drew 10 thousand a session. The closest team geographically was Wake Forrest, and the big draw was Syracuse, which is all the way up in Northern New York state.
I know you cannot make everyone happy, but it was a joke. Fans in South Florida are fair weather as it is, so don't expect them to come to the games, and I am sure that a trip to South Florida from say Cleveland, Syracuse, Arizona, and Utah is just pocket change.
My thoughts are maybe they should stop the groups of 8 teams in one city and make them 4 teams to one city. You get 16 cities involved, rather than 8, and make it easier to geographically place teams in the first and second rounds.
The Regional semis are another story, but I think that this would help bring in more fans to these games if the fan could jump in the car and drive a few hours instead of hop a flight across the country.
Maybe the NCAA should look into this in the future, because it is all about putting butts in the seats.