Starting to build in Stillwater
Four days after Gallagher-Iba Arena filled to the brim for Bedlam women’s basketball, and Oklahoma State celebrated the historic night with an 82-63 thrashing of the Sooners, here were the attendance figures:
OU drew 5,400 fans for a game against Nebraska. OSU women drew less than 3,000 for a game against Missouri. The big lesson is clear. It takes time to build up a fan base. And you better keep winning.
Women’s basketball is a brave new world for attendance. There are sports fans who are unaccounted for. They don’t go to football or men’s basketball games at either school, but still might be enticed to campus. They are turned off by high prices or big egos or even big crowds. They haven’t been snared by one of the allures of sport; feeling a part of something.
Women’s basketball can snare them. Sherri Coale has snared them. OU’s attendance is consistently strong, between 5,000 and 10,000 for most games. The 5,400 for Nebraska was on the short side of what the Sooners usually draw and a sign that some fans have some doubts about this squad, after the Bedlam blowout.
Missouri coach Cindy Stein was charmingly criticial of OSU fans for not turning out Wednesday. Said the Cowgirls were the best show in town. Wondered what gives, was it movie night? Said if it was church night, she should have been in church with all the OSU fans, praying that Andrea Riley wouldn’t suit up for the Cowgirls.
But the truth is, booming attendance does not happen overnight. When Coale took over OU, she drew crowds in triple digits, and I swear, there were some games when it was less than 100. And even after the Sooners got good, the big crowds were spikes. OU drew some massive crowds to NCAA Tournament games at Lloyd Noble Center, but not everyone returned when the next season started.
Coale slowly built it up, to a good solid base of probably 5,000, then Courtney Paris arrived and it’s gotten even better.
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