OXFORD — Attendance numbers for Ole Miss men’s basketball games at The Pavilion hit an all-time low this season.
The announced average attendance for men’s basketball games this season was 6,462 fans per game in an arena that seats 9,500. Discounting the 2020-21 season, when attendance was limited out of COVID-19 precaution, this is the lowest average attendance for Ole Miss games since The Pavilion opened in 2016.
An attendance of 6,462 would fill a little more than two-thirds of The Pavilion. Using the eye test, most Ole Miss crowds weren’t two-thirds full. It was an issue Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis identified early in the season, encouraging fans to show up, support the team and make The Pavilion a tough place for opponents to play.
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And it’s an issue that athletics director Keith Carter acknowledges at season’s end.
“I think it was a little bit of a product of just a down year,” Carter told the Clarion Ledger. “We had some injuries. The season didn’t go like we had hoped. You get into some of those late-season games and baseball has started and I think maybe because the season didn’t go the way we had hoped people had shifted over to baseball a little earlier than normal.”
Ole Miss finished 4-14 in SEC play, its worst mark since the 1990-91 season. As a result, interest dipped. Average attendance announced for SEC games was 6,681. The announced attendance at The Pavilion on Feb. 15 against South Carolina was 5,813, making it the least-attended SEC game in arena history.
Naturally, fans prefer winning teams to losing teams. That’s why when Davis led the 2018-19 Rebels to the NCAA Tournament, average attendance reached 8,791 fans per SEC game with five announced sellouts.
That said, Ole Miss posted losing SEC records in 2019-20 (6-12) and 2017-18 (5-13). Average SEC attendance was significantly higher in both of those seasons, reaching 7,771 in 2019-20 and 7,104 in 2017-18.
Many factors contribute to low attendance. Carter said he and the marketing staff have brainstormed promotions to sell more tickets and in-arena activities to make games more compelling. But in his and Davis’ eyes, the best way to attract fans is with a good product.
“It’s a great place to play. We’ve got to do our part and win and put a product on the floor that people want to watch,” Davis said. “We’ve done that before here. People have come in a big way. I know Ole Miss fans will do that.”
Carter said Davis will be involved in the conversations about how to improve attendance when the season ends. Even with the way the on-court product has looked this season, Carter does not seem to have lost faith in his coach.
“We’re going to sit down here in the next few days and talk about the future,” Carter said. “Talk about how we get back to the tournament. Obviously that’s the expectation. We want to be playing in mid-to-late March late into the NCAA Tournament. We’ll talk about that in the next few days. We feel like Kermit can get us there. We just have to figure out what went wrong this year and make sure we can fix some of those things moving forward.”
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or [email protected] Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism