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Jenni Carlson: NCAA Tournament tempts fans to stay home

This year, with every game being broadcast in its entirety for the first time, the television audience can see everything. The NCAA is daring folks to stay home. Lots are taking the NCAA up on that.
by Jenni Carlson Published: March 18, 2011
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TULSA — As Arizona and Memphis traded baskets in an exciting and entertaining game in T-Town, George Mason rallied from a double-digit deficit, nailed a last-second shot and Villanova in an equally exciting and entertaining game.

Not that anyone inside the BOK Center knew about it.

Too bad they weren't home watching on TV.

During the first couple days of the NCAA Tournament — the greatest back-to-back days in sports — there are always great games going on at the same time. But this year, with every game being broadcast in its entirety for the first time, the television audience can see everything.

The NCAA is daring folks to stay home.

Lots are taking the NCAA up on that.

During the first two days of the tournament — that “First Four” concept is so bad that we're going to pretend as though it didn't even happen — there were some atrocious attendance figures. On Thursday, the regional in Tucson managed only a little more than 10,000 fans in each of its two sessions while the regional in Tampa had about 15,000, though the crowd looked like it was closer to 1,500.

The crowd in Tulsa?

The early session was 12,631, the late session 14,353.

The crowd seemed better than that, to be honest. While the end zone seats in the upper deck were nearly empty, the lower bowl was packed for both afternoon and evening sessions. Yet, those tickets-sold attendance numbers place T-Town solidly in next-to-last place among the eight regionals.

Tulsa regional organizers put a happy face on the day.

“It's been everything we hoped for, everything we imagined,” Tulsa Metro Chamber president Michael Neal said. “Everything has really come off like clockwork.”

But organizing committees guarantee the NCAA a certain number of tickets sold when they bid for regionals. It can't be easy to seeing those empty seats. It can't be easy to stomach that lost revenue.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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