Mizzou Arena has been less than half full for seven of Missouri’s nine games this season.
That’s not uncommon during nonconference play, but the Tigers’ sluggish home attendance for conference games is a concern.
Missouri hosted a crowd of 7,509 for its SEC opener Jan. 8 against LSU, the fourth-smallest crowd for a conference game in Mizzou Arena’s 11-year history.
The Tigers had 10,359 show up Jan. 17 for its second conference home game of the season, against Tennessee.
It’s still early in the conference schedule, and those figures are in part down because school hadn’t been in session for those conference games.
Still, it’s an alarming trend after Missouri posted its lowest attendance in six seasons during the 2013-14 season.
“We aren’t pleased with the decline in attendance … but you’re also very appreciative of those folks that do show and continue to show and support the team enthusiastically,” MU athletic director Mike Alden said Tuesday during a news conference at the arena.
It’s not totally unexpected that the Tigers aren’t drawing well, particularly considering that they have struggled on the court in a transition year in which Kim Anderson has taken over for Frank Haith, who left for Tulsa after last season.
“We had anticipated a flat to lesser … revenue for men’s basketball this year,” Alden said. “We knew that there was going to be a transition on that.”
He also conceded that the decline has been worse than expected.
“The numbers as far as the attendance is concerned is lower than what we had anticipated and actually hoped for this year,” Alden said. “… It’s on all of us within the department to fix that.”
Missouri drew at least 10,488 fans during 41 consecutive home conference games between Jan. 14, 2009, when 9,171 were on hand for the Big 12 opener against Colorado, and Jan. 8, 2014, when 9,298 showed up for last season’s SEC opener versus Georgia.
During that five-year span, the Tigers played in front of 19 sellout crowds.
Last season, Missouri had three conference games with attendance below 10,000, including games against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Georgia, and failed to sell out a game for the first season in Mizzou Arena history.
The largest crowd in 2013-14 was 14,132 for a Feb. 15 battle with Tennessee.
Anderson said it’s not hard to figure out what he needs to do to help attendance.
“We need to win games,” Anderson said. “I’m happy for everybody that comes and grateful. I hope they bring friends. But you know what? We better win some basketball games. We don’t need to be complaining about the crowd. They’re great. They’re tremendous. I enjoy having every one of them here.”
Missouri should have its largest crowd of the season at 1 p.m. Saturday against Arkansas, which is led by former Tigers’ coach Mike Anderson.
There also should be a massive crowd for Thursday’s game against top-ranked and undefeated Kentucky.
“I hope people will come,” Kim Anderson said. “I think we’re a team that’s growing, we’re getting better and we need all the support we can get. But again, I’m appreciative of all the people that do come.”
He also said the fans — generally loud and passionate diehards — play a role in helping Missouri be competitive, citing an overtime win against LSU as an example.
“If you come to the game, you help us win, because there have been a couple of crowds that I think have helped us. I think the LSU crowd helped us, even though it wasn’t 10,000 or 12,000. It was still a good crowd.”
Missouri average attendance, conference games (since 2004-05)
Missouri averaged 8,934 fans for its first two SEC home games of the 2014-15 season. That figure should climb with students returning from break, but it’s part of an alarming trend. Missiouri averaged 2,665 fewer fans last season for conference games than it did in 2012-13.
Conference average attendance
* Through two of nine games
Smallest conference attendance at Mizzou Arena (since 2004-05)
Feb. 14, 2007
Baylor (W, 78-71)
Feb. 21, 2006
Texas A&M (L, 54-51)
Jan. 13, 2007
Kansas State (L, 85-81)
Jan. 8, 2015
LSU (W, 74-67 OT)
Feb. 26, 2008
Oklahoma State (L, 75-73)
March 5, 2008
Iowa State (W, 81-75 2OT)
Feb. 16, 2005
Baylor (W, 60-53)
Jan. 30, 2008
Nebraska (L, 66-62)
Feb. 28, 2007
Colorado (W, 91-82)
Feb. 20, 2007
Oklahoma (W, 72-68)