Despite the basketball Vols overachieving this season and squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, fans have not been turning out to watch the young team at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Through their 14 home games of the 2016-17 season, the Vols are averaging just 13,630 fans per game according to official attendance numbers released after each home game. That’s the lowest average per game since Buzz Peterson’s last season in 2004-05 when only 12,225 fans showed up on average for each Tennessee home game.
Tennessee’s attendance numbers have been on a gradual decline over the last three seasons, and that trend has continued this year. The average attendance in the 2012-13 season was 16,635 fans per home game. That went down to 15,475 per game in the 2013-14 season, then to 15,064 in the 2014-15 season, and then it dropped to 14,232 per home game in Rick Barnes’ first season in the 2015-16 season.
In Rick Barnes’ nearly two seasons as Tennessee’s head coach, the average attendance at Thompson-Boling Arena has been 13,952 fans per game. Tennessee does still have home games against Vanderbilt and Alabama remaining this season, but this season’s numbers likely won’t rise a great deal even with those two game still left on the slate.
Here’s the average attendance at Tennessee basketball home games under the Vols’ previous four head coaches:
Donnie Tyndall (2014-15): 15,064
Cuonzo Martin (2011-14): 16,218
Bruce Pearl (2005-11): 19,414
Buzz Peterson (2001-05): 13,403
Tennessee’s attendance numbers have dipped back down to Buzz Peterson-era levels under Barnes. Most of that isn’t on Barnes; it’s more of a reflection of the hard times basketball has fallen under thanks to a wild coaching carousel over the last few seasons and major roster turnover because of that. And the fact that the on-court product has suffered as well hasn’t helped.
If this young team can build off the successes they’ve found this season and put together a strong start to the 2017-18 season, expect those attendance numbers to jump up for next season.