Thanks to its trademark, unmatched fan support, the University of Tennessee bucked a nationwide attendance trend in men’s basketball this season. For the third straight year, the Volunteers ranked fourth nationally in average home attendance. But the most remarkable aspect of UT’s homecourt advantage is the fact that it got stronger despite the nation’s current economic struggles.
According to USA Today, each of college basketball’s 12 top-drawing conferences saw attendance decrease during the 2008-09 regular season. The percentage of decline ranged from 1-5 percent — with the average attendance at Big Ten schools dropping by more than 500 fans per game.
In the Southeastern Conference, nine of 12 programs saw a decline in their average home attendance this season.
Not on Rocky Top.
Tennessee was one of just three SEC schools that saw its attendance increase (from 20,267 in 2007-08 to 20,483 in 2008-09).
In fact, Tennessee was one of only 20 schools who ranked among the top 50 in home attendance a year ago to increase its home average in 2008-09.
“Tennessee fans are known for their incredible fan support,” UT athletics director Mike Hamilton said. “Their record-setting attendance this season in the face of tough economic times further solidifies how special this place really is, and is likewise a testament to the job (coach) Bruce Pearl and our student-athletes are doing to warrant their support.”
In their 15 home games (14 of which were televised), the Vols drew a total of 307,239 fans to Thompson-Boling Arena. In total, 10 of those crowds were larger than 20,000. Tennessee's Jan. 7 home game against Gonzaga drew a crowd of 22,326--UT’s largest crowd since the arena renovations that took place prior to the 2007-08 season brought the building’s new capacity to 21,678.
In the four seasons since Pearl was hired as Tennessee's head coach, the Vols have played in front of 30 home crowds of 20,000 or larger. The support of UT’s vocal home crowds has helped the Vols to a 55-7 (.887) home record over the past four years.
This year’s average home attendance of 20,483 was the second-largest in school history.
Tennessee is the only Division I school ever to rank in the top five nationally in home attendance for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball in the same year. Thanks to its loyal fans, UT accomplished that lofty feat for the sixth time in 2008-09.