Vol fans have been craving a winning product on the field or court for years, and they finally got their wish this past season in men’s basketball. And they rewarded the men’s hoops team for their efforts.
According to official numbers released by the NCAA today, Tennessee finished with the fourth-highest average home attendance in the 2018-19 men’s basketball season. As we reported back in March, Tennessee averaged 19,034 fans per game in Thompson-Boling Arena this past season. That averaged trailed only Syracuse (21,992), Kentucky (21,695), and North Carolina (19,715) for the largest average home crowd in men’s hoops this past season. The Vols’ average attendance total was nearly 2,000 more than Wisconsin, the No. 5 team on the list (17,170).
Tennessee’s 19,034 average home attendance this season ranks as the seventh-best all-time in school history. It’s easily the highest in the Rick Barnes era, and it’s a massive jump from last season’s average of 16,210 fans per game in Thompson-Boling Arena (8th nationally). In fact, the 2,824 increase in average attendance from last season to this season is the second-largest increase from one season to the next in Thompson-Boling Arena history. The only increase that’s bigger is the last year of the Buzz Peterson era (2004-05) to the first year of the Bruce Pearl era (2005-06) that saw the average attendance rise by 5,729 fans per game.
The Vols had five home games sell out this season, and they boasted an attendance of over 20,000 fans seven different times.
Tennessee finished this season a perfect 18-0 at home, marking only the third time in school history that the Vols have gone undefeated at home since Thompson-Boling Arena opened up prior to the 1987-88 season. The other two instances came in the Bruce Pearl era. Both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 teams went undefeated at home, going 16-0 both seasons.
The first year Thompson-Boling Arena opened is still the high water mark for attendance average in the arena’s history. The 1987-88 season saw an average of 20,823 fans attend home games that season.
Overall this season, Tennessee tied a school record for the most wins in a season with 31. The Vols went 31-6 overall, were ranked No. 1 for four-straight weeks, went wire-to-wire as a top-10 team in the AP Poll, made it to the SEC Tournament Final for the second-straight season, and made it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2014.
Tennessee’s placement of No. 4 in average attendance across all college basketball is their highest ranking since also placing fourth after the 2009-10 season. Thompson-Boling Arena averaged 19,168 fans that year, and that was also the last time Tennessee earned the No. 1 ranking in men’s basketball.
The Vols have been in the top 20 in average attendance in men’s basketball every year since the 2004-05 season. Tennessee has finished in the top 10 in average attendance 10 times over the last 15 seasons, and that includes seven top-5 finishes.
Just two years ago, Tennessee basketball had reached a low point in attendance that hadn’t been seen in over a decade. The 2016-17 season saw just an average of 13,637 fans attend home games at Thompson-Boling, the lowest average in a single season since the 2004-05 season had just an average of 12,225 fans attending every home game.
But Vol fans have showed up and showed out the last two seasons, and fan attendance figures to remain stable moving forward.