I think when you compare attendances around the country the biggest factor is are there other events in the area that the basketball game, or any other sport, is competing against. There is a reason that SEC football has been drawing massive crowds forever, long before their recent domination. There is nothing else to do in Gainesville, Fayetteville, Baton Rouge, Starkville, etc. There is a reason that schools like Texas Tech (Lubbock) and Texas A & M (College Station) draw so well. There is nothing else to do there. Same is true of a place like Virginia Tech (as they say, “all dirt roads lead to Tech”) in Blacksburg. Of course, it helps to have vast alumni bases to draw from as well.
Bethlehem is no metropolis, but residents in the Lehigh Valley have a lot more leisure events to consider than a lot of other college towns. With Philadelphia and New York pro sports, a driveable distance away, Lehigh is competing for the sports dollar. I think in a place like Lewisburg, there is nothing else to do, but watch Bucknell basketball. For a team like Holy Cross, the same is not true, they can drive to Boston and see the Celtics, for example, or the Bruins. Under my logic, I guess Colgate should do a lot better, but they don’t. The majority of Lehigh alums are probably living in suburban NYC or suburban Philadelphia, and they have countless pro sports teams to go see play, rather than drive the 1.5 hours to Bethlehem. The locals around Lewisburg don’t have that opportunity for the most part. Granted most of Bucknell’s alums don’t live near campus, but the locals turn out and the students turn out. The disappointment with Lehigh is the lack of student interest. I’m sure if you live in Spokane, Washington, the only thing to do is watch Gonzaga hoops.
Pro sports are a big draw in the Northeast if they are close by. That is why the NCAA draws so well in the South, as there are far fewer pro teams to visit. I would doubt any suburban NYC draw very well, as the competition for the sports dollar is fierce, and there are limitless other choices.
I would think a realistic goal for Lehigh would be to get 1/4 of the students to show up, that is about 1,200 and another 1,000 or so from the Lehigh Valley. I would be thrilled at an average attendance over 2,000.
Anybody have any idea on number of season ticket holders for basketball or football? For basketball it has to be less than 500. You would think LV businesses would buy up some tickets to get some corporate type presence, but I guess they think nobody would want the tickets when they tried to give them away.
I actually think Stabler is a pretty good arena, location aside. It is a good size, and although the seats could be closer to the action, it would rock if even half full. Throw in a jumbotron, which is certainly possible, and a new arena announcer, again possible, and it would make the atmosphere much better. I think if the athletic department is really serious, they could upgrade Stabler a bit, and it would improve things dramatically. I would go with jumbotron, and make it all seater, eliminate the bench seating at the higher level, and maybe bring the seats in tighter to the court, especially at the end opposite the current student end. I won’t even touch the cheerleaders or dance team.