I also fully admit that I enjoy the business side of basketball, equally to the games.
Attendance figures and basketball schedules, I look at each and every day during the season. If I am the only person in America, it is also an exciting time for myself right now as basketball schedules for the teams I follow closely start to trickle out.
One league I have followed closely for years, too many years to even count, is the Big Sky. The Big Sky teams play in states I have always been fascinated with, Washington, Idaho, California, Utah, Montana, Oregon and Colorado. Gorgeous states, that are populated by wonderful people.
If you watch and follow the Big Sky, it is easy to recognize that outside of Idaho State, it is a league for its size that has outstanding basketball coaches, a really quality group of assistant coaches who I am sure are woefully underpaid and the basketball is usually really exciting. Games are fun to watch, great to take the family too and you usually can get a pretty good seat.
It is the watch and follow part these days that is troublesome. Yes you could say the in the Big Sky the Sky is falling. Last year the average home attendance for all Big Sky men's games was 2,288. That figure stands out even more, when you consider out the 355 D-1 teams, Big Sky member Weber State ranked 93rd in attendance with average attendance of just under 6,000. Not bad.
Obviously if you throw out Weber State, attendance in the rest of the league borders on being pathetic. Granted, at least two places in the league have very small arenas, Sacramento State and Portland State, but even those schools fail each night to come even close to selling out.
Even a sadder fact is that six teams in the Big Sky averaged less than the D-3 leader in home attendance last year, Hope University, which had an average home attendance of just under 3,000 fans.
Is there "hope' for the Big Sky. I would like to think so, but it is not going to happen overnight, it will take some long hours and hard work and it will take some creativity, something the Big Sky office is noted for.
And speaking of scheduling, one thing that really damages the Big Sky attendance is the ability to attract quality teams to play in pre-season games. Of the three teams that have their schedules out for 2011-12, here is a sample of the schools that Big Sky teams will play in pre-season at home.
South Dakota, Cal State Davis, Pacific Lutheran, Colorado Christian, Cal State Bakersfield, Mayville State, Northern New Mexico, Willamette and Linfield (twice). As you can see all big time basketball powerhouses. (I have to add, in the heyday of Linfield basketball with the likes of Dan Beeson, Mike Smithey and John Melonas, Linfield might have beaten most of the Big Sky teams they played, but those days are long over.)
As more Big Sky basketball schedules trickle out, I am sure the you will see additional powerhouses on the home schedules like Wales and Johnson, Concordia and Minot State. The Big Sky teams actually play some great teams on the road in pre-season, home games, well there is nothing you can say about most of the teams they play, because half the time, nobody has ever heard of them as noted above.
Ok, ok, I might be the only person that cares, but I am going to offer some advice to the Big Sky office, a league I love and care about, as to how to get more people watching your basketball games and hopefully being able to attract great teams for home pre-season games. Here goes:
1. Re-brand the entire league. Even go as far to change the name. The Big Sky no longer fits, with expansion happening in both basketball and football, Big Sky is too Montana(ish) and it no longer fits.
2. Stop treating basketball as a second hand sport compared to football. Memo to Big Sky office, football in the Big Sky is FCS, basketball is D-1. Basketball should be your dominant sport.
3. The greatest sports marketer of all time, Jon Spoelstra lives in one of the Big Sky cities, Portland. Have him do a seminar to all Big Sky staff and marketing people in the respective schools. He would make a difference and get people thinking in the right direction. In basketball terms, Spoelstra is a made three point shot and getting fouled and making the free throw.
4. Have Mike Lund, from Portland State, do the same as Spoelstra, when it comes to media relations. Lund is great, he knows what he is doing and his advice should and needs to be made available to all schools.
5. A drastic measure, but maybe for a few years Big Sky teams quit playing home pre-season games. Sure it would affect everyone's record, but maybe not the RPI. No one wants to come and watch the above mentioned teams play, that is obvious.
Hey, no can ever question my love and loyalty to Big Sky basketball. It is a good product, watched and followed by far less people these days than should happen and rather than complain, I offered some great solutions. I just hope the right people are listening.
By the way, I do have some name changes for the league, but why should I do their work for them. As many readers as this blog has, writing about them should be enough, at least I hope it helps.
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