Record-Low Ohio State Basketball Attendance Continues Falling As Buckeyes Struggle Through Second Half of Season

By Andy Anders on February 1, 2024 at 11:05 am
Chris Holtmann
Joseph Maiorana – USA TODAY Sports

A top-15 opponent in Big Ten conference play wasn’t enough to draw an above-average crowd to Value City Arena on Tuesday.

In fact, it wasn’t enough to draw even an average contingent.

All of 10,285 fans were in the stands to see Ohio State play and lose to No. 14 Illinois, which dipped below the Buckeyes’ mean for the season of 10,531. The capacity of Value City Arena is 18,809.

As Ohio State’s season has started spiraling for a second straight year, its attendance numbers have reflected the program’s downturn.

The Buckeyes’ 10,531-fan average is the lowest in their history playing at Value City Arena, which dates back to the 1998-99 season. The previous low was 12,181, set by none other than last year's Ohio State team. OSU has fallen off another 13.5% from that benchmark.

OSU is averaging just 56% capacity for its home games this season. 

It's hard to fall off from a record low, but the Buckeyes have, and that becomes readily apparent when looking back at the last time Ohio State played Illinois on Feb. 26, 2023.

The Buckeyes had just completed their worst stretch of the season, losing 14 of 15 games before welcoming an unranked Fighting Illini squad into the Schottenstein Center. Ohio State’s record was a dismal 11-17. Any NCAA Tournament hopes were long gone. Still, 14,212 people came to watch the Buckeyes snap a nine-game losing streak that day.

The largest high school in Ohio, Mason, boasts a body of about 3,500 students in a given year. There were 3,927 more patrons there to watch Ohio State play Illinois at home in 2023 than there were in 2024. More than a Mason’s worth.

Now, it should be noted that the Ohio State/Illinois game was played on a Tuesday this year whereas last year’s was on a Sunday, and weekend games generally draw bigger crowds into Value City Arena. But even against No. 21 Maryland on the Wednesday following their win over the Illini last season, attendance stood at 11,799 for the Buckeyes. That's 1,514 more than this past Tuesday.

Plus, all of this fits in a growing multi-year trend for Ohio State under coach Chris Holtmann.

Average Attendance Under Holtmann
Year Avg. Attendance %Increase/Decrease
2017-18 13,495 +9.5%
2018-19 13,922 +3.2%
2019-20 14,531 +4.4%
2020-21 N/A N/A
2021-22 13,276 -8.6%
2022-23 12,181 -8.2%
2023-24 10,531 -13.5%

Ohio State’s average attendance for home games has dropped every year since the 2019-20 season, excluding 2020-21, when tickets weren’t sold to games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans missed watching Ohio State jump out to an 18-4 start before closing the shortened regular season with four straight losses. The Buckeyes made a run to the Big Ten Championship Game before losing to Illinois. A No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, they were upset by 15th-seeded Oral Roberts in the first round.

As the team’s play has declined since, with it has gone the interest of the viewing public.

Ohio State limped to a No. 7 seed and a second-round tourney exit in 2021-22 before failing to make even the NIT with a 16-19 record in 2022-23. Their attendance numbers dipped 8.6% and then an additional 8.2% in stride.

Still, this year has seen the sharpest drop of them all. The Buckeyes’ results losing six of their last seven games aren’t likely to change that trend.

The air near the Schottenstein Center has started to wreak with a smell more distressing than panic or gloom. It’s a stench called apathy.

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