UCSD’s Main Gym is seen in this composite photo taken in the 1990s. Most indoor intercollegiate activities now take place at the RIMAC Center.
UCSD’s average attendance is around 250 out of 5000 seats — trising on The Big West Boards
The UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program faces a key date this month, as the Big West Conference leadership is supposed to consider whether to invite UCSD into the conference (and thus determine whether the campus moves to NCAA Division I, per the outcome of last year’s student vote).
I’ve been paying more attention to the matter, including visiting a number of discussion boards centered around the Big West and other mid-major conferences. I spotted the above quote on one of the boards and wanted to respond because that information doesn’t match what I’ve seen. I’m also including some additional thoughts that have been on my mind.
UCSD men’s basketball average attendance has been several times higher than this figure in the past. It’s not going to compare with the top-flight Big West programs, but it’s better than the cited members.
Here’s the information from the NCAA on UCSD men’s basketball team’s average home attendance for the 2014-15 season*:
UCSD – men’s (D-II) — 11 games — 9,497 total attendance — 863 avg. per game
It beat the average NCAA Division II men’s basketball attendance of 710 per game in 2014. As a D-II program, UCSD also exceeded UC Riverside’s average attendance that year (762) and non-BWC Sacramento State’s (815). It also tied CSU Northridge that year in the category.
By comparison, UC Irvine’s average home attendance that year was 2,348 and UC Davis’ was 2,584. (Davis, Irvine, Northridge and Riverside are all in the Big West.)
Of course, UCSD’s figures reflect average home attendance over the entirety of the season (which was the standard that the original poster offered). Spirit Night attendance in 2015 was 3,881. If one wished to calculate the average WITHOUT the most popular game of the year, you get a per-game average of 562 — still twice the figure originally offered.
As an aside, UCSD women’s basketball average home attendance in 2014-15 (397) beat out UC Riverside (270) and UC Irvine (248). UC Davis had a respectable 1,049 while non-BWC San Diego State had a relatively woeful 604 (non-BWC University of San Diego also had 536).
I know a lot of attention is focused on the men’s basketball teams, but a single sport does not an athletic program make.
According to 2014 numbers (which may be the 2013-14 season, my notes are incomplete), UCSD men’s basketball had higher average attendance than 21 D-I schools (out of 345). The women’s team outdrew 31 D-I schools (out of 343).
Regarding the men’s basketball attendance figures, I did the initial research in part to show that moving to Division I isn’t a silver bullet for schools moving up. As a UCSD graduate watching UC Riverside move to D-I in the late 1990s, I thought that they made the move for the wrong reasons and their still-woeful basketball attendance may an indication that they may have missed the mark.
I’m still worried that UCSD students are seeking the move to D-I for the “wrong reasons” because merely moving up a division isn’t likely to deliver the supposed greater prestige of competition (no offense to BWC), higher alumni interest, boosted student spirit and increased relevance in a sports market that already includes two D-I schools and a MLB team. I’ve long backed an approach similar to UC Davis, which built up student and fan support years before moving to D-1.
At the same time, as any proud Triton will tell you, UCSD is NOT UC Riverside. Even as a D-II program, UCSD men’s basketball home attendance tops lower-tier BWC teams. Although it’s not a guarantee, UCSD would hopefully continue to top those numbers and grow as it moves into D-I.
Ultimately, I’m setting aside my personal reservations because UCSD students DID vote for the move and I pledged to back whatever the students decided (they’re paying for it, after all, and will reap the ultimate fruits of this endeavor).
With the figurative ball now in the conference’s court, I appreciate the discussions on this board and elsewhere. There seem to be a lot of factors at play, but I hope there’s a decision that works best for everyone.
Go Tritons (currently in the D-II Sweet 16) and Aggies (as they enter March Madness)! — Ryan
* — Why figures from 2014-15? Those were the ones available when I was researching the issue ahead of the UCSD students’ D-I vote last year.