If you go on Twitter during an 11 a.m. Mississippi State University football game or during a men’s basketball game, you will see an inevitable tweet about student attendance.
While student attendance is an issue for football and other sports, the main focus of this column is not just on the students, but the overall attendance problems men’s basketball is facing and why.
I have researched a lot of official attendance records, and while the numbers are lower than they were 10 years ago, it is not by a large amount. More importantly according the NCAA's official website, MSU's attendance rank among the nation only jumps to 55th compared to last year’s 69th.
However, those official numbers are deceiving, because they include the tickets sold, but not necessarily seats filled. You will often see a tweet making fun of announced attendance at low attended games because of how obviously inflated the number is.
I covered nearly every men’s and women’s basketball game over the break, as well as one or two before the break. During these games, the Hump was nearly empty, and the student section is now a shell of its former self.
I remember growing up watching MSU basketball and hearing people talk about the Hump's intimidating environment. Led by Rick’s Rowdies, a playoff of then head coach Rick Stansbury’s name, which was the name of the then packed student section, the crowd helped the team win their games.
Compare those games to now, and it is almost night and day. At most games, the lower bowl of the Hump is about 60 to 80 percent full, with the upper bowl is almost completely empty. I cannot remember the last time the student section was completely full.
I talk to other reporters on the MSU sports beat, and they talk about how much better the crowds were in the past compared to now. Not just the student crowd, but also the general crowd.
One reason for less attendance is due to the dawn of technology and the ability to watch something on TV. Additionally, TV provides an easier way to gather people together.
I believe young people, and for some reason MSU students in particular, just do not care about basketball for the most part. This is a disappointment because this team is really good, and deserves a crowd every night.
Student attendance is not just a problem at MSU, but a country-wide issue.
The Wall Street Journal reported before the 2014 football season, college attendance at football games had been down 7.1 percent since 2009. While the statistic is on football, it illustrates the overall issue of college attendance dropping.
Secondly, the Hump's student section is not in the best spot.
I traveled to Oxford to cover the Ole Miss vs. MSU game last Saturday, and they do not start spring classes for a couple weeks, yet their student section was almost full. The difference? It is on the sidelines, and not the baselines. Duke has a student section on the sideline as well, a lot of schools do. I understand the reason for not moving the sections, as it would be a disaster to rearrange all the season ticket holders, but if people want student crowds there, this would help tremendously.
The third reason for lower attendance is the team has been terrible for years now.
I was talking to the recently graduated Ethan Lee on Twitter, and the thing he noted was in his four years here, MSU men’s basketball did not have a winning season. While this may have been true, this is no longer the case.
MSU is 13-3 and beat a then-ranked University of Arkansas team. They have proven to be at least a middle-of-the-road, if not good SEC team this year. They deserve good attendance. Not only because of their play, but also because a big crowd can make somewhat of a difference.
Overall, there are not a lot of things the university can do. They do things to promote basketball, like bringing head coach Ben Howland around the library to promote games around finals last semester. The team and the athletic department do their part to try to get students involved. However, it is now on us, the student body, to show up.
Students set the tone for crowd energy and noise across all sports. This has been the case at every school and pretty much since the dawn of time, or in this case, college sports.
It is time for the Hump to become the intimidating atmosphere it once was. MSU basketball is back, and you should be, too.