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North Texas athletics department trying to revive men’s basketball attendance

North Texas athletics department trying to revive men’s basketball attendance

The Super Pit during the men’s basketball game against the University of Texas at San Antonio. Colin Mitchell

North Texas athletics department trying to revive men’s basketball attendance
February 22
13:36 2017

Coming out of halftime down 50-39 in their game on Feb. 4 against Rice University, the men’s basketball team trudged out of the locker room to the North Texas fight song played by the Mean Green Brigade.

The Brigade have been the team’s biggest fans all season long, and are always at the games – no matter the score. Even when the student section was bare and the team was on an 11-game losing streak, they were there. As they played the fight song, the pro-North Texas crowd scattered around the Super Pit rose to their feet and half-heartedly clapped to the tune.

This has been the norm for Mean Green basketball the past few years.

With ambitions to resurrect the dwindling atmosphere in the Super Pit, Associate Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jared Mosley has had an uphill climb in his first year at North Texas.

“At the end of the day, a big chunk of attendance has to do with your performance,” Mosley said. “I think there are some observations we’ve made that we can do better from a marketing standpoint [as well as] improving the in-game product to become a more viable option for people.”

Despite posting signs around campus, creating incentives for adults and children to go, and letting all 37,000 UNT students get in for free, Mosely and his staff literally cannot give away tickets. Even the school spirit group Talons usually brings no more than five to 10 people to the games, showing how disengaged a majority of the student population is from the athletics at North Texas.

Part of the reason is performance, especially from the men’s team.

North Texas has only won one Conference USA tournament game under head coach Tony Benford and failed to win a game this season for over a month. The stench of losing has deterred even basketball fans from going to the Super Pit for two hours of free basketball.

“Obviously winning helps attendance, that’s the bottom line,” Benford said. “I think for the struggles that we’ve had this year, attendance has been decent and I appreciate the fans who are coming.”

In the aforementioned Saturday afternoon game against Rice, freshman guard A.J. Lawson posted a career-high 31 points and treated the announced crowd of 2,154 to a show. The only problem was there were not over 2,000 people there. There were barely 1,000, if that, and a few hundred were donning navy blue in support of the visiting Owls.

That’s because announced attendance is based on the number of tickets sold, not the number of people actually there. So even if someone buys a ticket and doesn’t show up, that number is added to the total. Despite free admission to games for students and multiple giveaways, North Texas is still ranked third to last in attendance in C-USA.

Senior forward Derail Green admitted the more people that are in the stands, the more pumped up he gets during a game.

“[The crowd] kind of gives me energy,” Green said “The more fans come, the more energized we are during the game. That’s the biggest thing in my opinion.”

Determined to increase attendance, Mosley and his marketing team introduced several new ideas this year. These included bringing in groups like fraternities and sororities, youth sports groups, and surrounding neighborhoods and schools.

That’s because along with football, basketball is one of the two largest revenue sports in college athletics – and it’s no different at North Texas. Filling the Super Pit would not only help encourage the players on the basketball team and the program, but it would also generate revenue capable of aiding all of the sports and facilities at the school.

“We certainly feel, in football and basketball, we’ve got plenty of seats left to sell,” Mosley said. “We do feel like we can make significant strides in increasing attendance, and ticket sales is an extremely important piece of the revenue equation for us.”

With young stars like Lawson and fellow freshman guard Ryan Woolridge on the court, along with a motivated athletic department, the groundwork is being laid for improvement in the realm of attendance.

When North Texas won two Sun Belt championships in 2007 and 2010, many Mean Green faithful and students used the phrase ‘We don’t sit in the Pit’ as a rallying cry during home games.

The goal for North Texas now is to bring that phrase back to life and truly pack the Super Pit.

“[The attendance] will improve a lot,” Lawson said of the coming years. “We’re still a young group, and as we get older, we’re going to win a lot more games, so I feel like the fan base will be a lot better.”

Featured Image: The Super Pit during the men’s basketball game against the University of Texas at San Antonio. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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