As Ohio State Continues to Struggle on the Court, Attendance Keeps Dipping

By Tim Shoemaker on March 26, 2017 at 7:45 am
The Schottenstein Center.

Value City Arena isn’t exactly the most intimidating venue in the Big Ten.

This isn’t really breaking news, of course. And Ohio State’s less-than-impressive 13-6 home record — which featured a 4-5 mark in conference play — only solidifies that.

The Buckeyes play in a modern NBA-style arena that seats 18,909 — the ninth largest in Division I, according to Ohio State did not sell out one home game during the 2016–17 season, however, and only topped the 15,000-mark twice. It’s not exactly a raucous environment even when it’s filled and anybody who has ever attended a game there can probably attest to that.

Attendance declines are the product of on-court struggles the last few seasons for the Buckeyes. For the first time in the Thad Matta era, Ohio State failed to reach the 20-win mark as it finished this most recent campaign just 17-15, missing both the NCAA tournament and the NIT.

Ohio State Averaged Announce Attendance Last Five Years
Season Avg. attendance
2016–17 12,324
2015–16 12,284* (includes two NIT games)
2014–15 14,648
2013–15 16,524
2012–13 16,522

In 19 home games this season, Ohio State’s average announced attendance was 12,324 per game. That figure is up slightly from the 12,284 from the 2015–16 season, but if you discount the two NIT games the Buckeyes hosted that season — which averaged just 6,442 per game because, well, they were NIT games — this was the fourth-straight season in which attendance for Ohio State home games decreased. Without those two NIT games, Ohio State’s average announced attendance was 12,899 for that 2015–16 campaign.

There was a slight decline in Big Ten games, too. Last season, Ohio State’s average announced attendance in league contests was 13,842 with a Feb. 16 game against Michigan featuring the largest home crowd of the league season with 17,088. This season, the Buckeyes’ average announced attendance was just 13,258 per game. The Jan. 15 win over Michigan State had the largest home crowd of the season: 17,449.

In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch at the end of last season, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said, essentially, the best way to fix the attendance declines was to win more games.

“Everybody is trying to analyze it,” Smith said then. “The bottom line is we need to win. That’s it.”

After this most recent season, interest around the Ohio State basketball program seems to be at an all-time low under Matta. Not only do the Buckeyes struggle to win games, but there isn’t much appeal either. Ohio State doesn’t play a particularly exciting style of basketball and there are no star players. Three seasons ago, the Buckeyes somewhat struggled and wound up as a 10-seed in the NCAA tournament. But they had a superstar in D’Angelo Russell and he alone was worth the price of admission.

With just one senior on last year’s team, Marc Loving, Ohio State is expected to return the majority of its core next season. A star doesn’t appear to be arriving immediately nor do the Buckeyes figure to completely change their system to play a different brand of basketball.

This team is going to look, personnel-wise, fairly similar to how it looked the previous two seasons. The only question is will the results change?

If performance is similar, expect attendance to be similar. And if both of those become reality, there could be significant changes made within the program.

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