June 8, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
There is no doubt that winning attracts fans, and fans can also help a team win. Both of those scenarios are holding true for the South Carolina men’s basketball program. The Gamecocks not only tied a school record with 25 wins last season, but with the final attendance figures being released from the NCAA, South Carolina also ranked fifth in the SEC and 31st nationally in average home attendance, and also ranked third in the SEC and 22nd nationally in total attendance.
“It’s funny how it works,” said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. “We actually cracked into the top 25 in the national rankings this year and stayed there for a little while. Now we’ve cracked into the top 25 in attendance. Those are things that can go hand in hand. You have to have a good team to have fans excited about watching you play, and the more fans come, the better your team gets.”
“Winning helps create a little more of a buzz,” said Josh Waters, Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing. “That’s the best part because people are talking more about basketball during the summer than they have been in the past. Winning and the fact that we are out in the community so much more really helps.”
South Carolina averaged 11,995 fans per home game in the 19 contests played in the Colonial Life Arena, which includes the two NIT games. This is the highest average attendance for South Carolina since the 2009-10 season when the Gamecocks ranked 30th nationally. South Carolina averaged 13,088 fans at home games during the regular season in 2015-16.
When the opposing team comes out, and they feel the electricity that’s there for the home team, it makes them create some doubt in themselves. That creates a home court environment.
“I’m ecstatic,” Martin said. “Gamecock fans support every program at this university. The one team that was kind of struggling in attendance was ours. Our guys have played really hard over the last four years to grow. We’ve been patient in growing the team, and our fans are starting to show that support.”
“We had hoped to average 13,000 fans during the regular season, and we did that,” Waters said. “We want to keep moving up the national leaderboard. We were in the 50s in terms of national attendance when Frank first arrived, and now we are climbing.”
The fan support is paying off. The Gamecocks posted a 16-3 record at home last year, including a 7-2 mark in SEC play inside the Colonial Life Arena.
“When a team comes out of the tunnel to play a home game, and there are only three thousand people in the stands, it’s deflating,” Martin said. “When the opposing team comes on to an opposing court and there is no life in the building, it makes them braver. Conversely, when we come out of the tunnel and see 18,000 people in the Colonial Life Arena, we get braver. We get more excited. We feel more indebted and responsible for how many people support us that we play better. When the opposing team comes out, and they feel the electricity that’s there for the home team, it makes them create some doubt in themselves. That creates a home court environment.”
Now that the groundwork has been laid for a successful program, the support in creating a home court advantage and exciting atmosphere is critical in continuing to move the program forward.
“You can’t run a successful basketball program unless your athletics administration is completely on board,” Martin said. “Over the last four years, the sports information department, marketing, our schedule, our players, and our recruiting have all started to come together. It’s everyone working hand in hand. It’s not just a player or a coach that makes a program work. It’s a united effort by everyone involved. ”
Martin praised South Carolina’s marketing department for coming up with creative ways to engage more fans and help create an atmosphere which creates a home court advantage, and the folks behind the scenes know that the best recipe for getting fans to come back over and over is the combination of success on the court, a good marketing plan, and being consistently active within the community.
“People want to see a winning product,” Waters said. “In marketing, we can’t just count on winning. Men’s basketball under Frank Martin has done a really good job of being involved in the community, whether it’s with ‘8K in 8 Days’ or our school events throughout the year. They are always willing to get out into the community. That has been a huge part of the increase in attendance the last few years. We have the greatest fans, no doubt.”
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