Attendance at Thompson-Boling Arena had been taking a nosedive ever since the firing of Bruce Pearl after the 2010-11 season. From that season on, attendance had dropped nearly every single season from year to year.
That is, until this season.
For the first time since the 2012-13 season, attendance at Thompson-Boling Arena actually averaged more than 16,000 fans per game. According to my calculations from the official attendance information the University of Tennessee released after every home game, the Vols’ official average attendance total for their 15 home games this season was 16,210 fans per game. That’s up 18.88 percent from last year’s average of 13,636 fans per game at Thompson-Boling Arena. Last year’s total was the lowest since the 2004-05 season when only 12,225 fans per game showed up in Buzz Peterson’s final season as head coach.
Tennessee’s attendance numbers for this season are the highest in five years. The 2012-13 season saw an average of 16,635 fans attend home games for the Vols. That season saw a slight rise from the previous year when an average of 16,543 fans attended home games in the 2011-12 season. That was also the last year-to-year increase in attendance at the arena until this year.
The Vols sold out three home games this season. Tennessee had sold out contests against North Carolina, Kentucky, and the season finale against Georgia. Tennessee averaged 17,032 fans in attendance for SEC games this season.
The growth in attendance this season is a big step in the right direction for a basketball program that’s been on the decline over the recent years. Vol fans showed up this year and were rewarded with their efforts as the basketball team earned a 23-7 overall record and an SEC regular season co-championship. Tennessee went 13-2 in home games this season, and that was their best home record since the 2013-14 team went 14-3 at home.
Tennessee’s uptick in attendance this season brings the average attendance numbers under Rick Barnes up significantly. The Vols are now averaging 14,693 fans at home games in the Rick Barnes era. They were averaging just under 14,000 per season under Barnes before this season.
Here’s the list of average attendance numbers per head coach at Tennessee since the 2001-02 season:
Buzz Peterson (2001-05): 13,403
Bruce Pearl (2005-11): 19,414
Cuonzo Martin (2011-14): 16,218
Donnie Tyndall (2014-15): 15,064
Rick Barnes (2015-present): 14,693
And here’s a list of all the average attendance numbers at Thompson-Boling Arena since the 1999-2000 season (all data via the NCAA attendance database):