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Article on Attendance at FAU and UM

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Article on Attendance at FAU and UM

Not sure if you all saw it. Doesn't say too much, but Doherty says his biggest thrill has been the buzz created in the community. Once again the link is working, but that idea of the 50 fans in Miami sounds like a good one for next year. The more I hear on Doherty the more I believe if this dome gets approved he wil stick around.

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Luring fans to UM, FAU games is easier said than done

By Omar Kelly
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted February 8 2006

Mike Jurken couldn't believe his luck.

In November, the University of Miami freshman showed up to his first Hurricanes basketball game at halftime and discovered he was fortunate enough to find a courtside seat in the student section.

Growing up in Milwaukee attending Marquette and Wisconsin basketball games, Jurken had never been privileged enough to get so close to the action. But as Jurken would soon discover, a seat behind the basket would be easily accessible at UM's BankUnited Center because, as at most of the local schools, few UM students – and local sports fans in general – have an interest in attending college basketball games.

Matt Doherty already had been at the mountaintop, spending three years coaching North Carolina, which averages more than 20,000 fans per game. So imagine how difficult it must have been to witness his first home crowd after taking over at Florida Atlantic, which last year drew fewer than 600 fans per game.

Doherty felt he knew what he had gotten himself into when he accepted the job last summer, but seeing the empty stands for himself, and listening to silence during critical runs in games, painted a more accurate picture of what he was up against.

FAU (11-10, 10-4 Atlantic Sun) isn't alone. In fact, outside of the University of Florida, all of the state schools are in the bottom tier when it comes to attendance at basketball games, fueling the perception that Florida is strictly a football state.

"It's fair to say that many other places do much better than we do," said UM Athletic Director Paul Dee, whose program is at the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference in average attendance (3,825) despite Miami's push for an NCAA Tournament bid. The Hurricanes are 14-8 overall and 6-3 in the ACC.

"We look at it all the time," Dee said. "We're selling our tickets, but the people only come for the big game."

Join the crowd

North Carolina coach Roy Williams believes there are two types of college basketball venues. The first are arenas that provide no home court advantage, failing to challenge the road team. The second are venues in which road teams have to be 10 to 20 points better than their opponents to have a chance of pulling out a victory.

UM and FAU fit into that first group.

According to many college coaches, fan support affects a program in four ways. It energizes the home team, particularly on the defensive end; it distracts the opponent, preventing players from hearing calls from coaches or teammates; it influences the calls made in a game by referees; and it affects recruiting.

"When a recruit sees a good crowd, they want to be a part of it," Doherty said. "It's hard to sell the program when there's hardly anyone there."

Doherty calls the problem he and UM coach Frank Haith are battling "the constant journey," and admits he hasn't done as much grassroots lobbying for fans as he needs to. But his stature and FAU's recent competitiveness have helped the Owls nearly double their average home attendance to 1,066 in 10 games.

Teams need sixth man

One of the larger issues for these programs is educating fans on what to do when they're there. Haith has even recommend songs for UM's pep band to play.

"We have to do a better job marketing college basketball and with our game operations," Haith said. "They have to understand that having a sixth man is important."

Disappointed with the student turnout, Jurken approached Haith earlier this season about starting "Haith's Faithful 50."

It's a group of about 46 students – they haven't gotten to 50 yet – who have signed contracts committing themselves to attending all home games. They also spread the word around campus on game day and must bring at least two other students to each game.

UM's student section has been growing wildly, and it has set the tone for the atmosphere and has seen home wins over Maryland, Clemson and Wake Forest. Haith sees it as a step in the right direction, but there have been issues preventing progress.

According to Jurken, UM's administration recently threatened to eject students found jumping up and down on the wooden bleachers in the student section, which were beginning to break from the impact.

"How can you complain about attendance and support when you're threatening to run the kids off?" Jurken said. "What's more important – replacing the bleachers or having us there?"

The debate is a sign UM might be at a crossroads. UM students being too rowdy? Not even Dee could have envisioned such a problem.

Doherty said his biggest thrill this season has come from the small buzz the Owls have generated in the community.

"At North Carolina I wasn't going to double attendance," he said. "I've done that here. Now I've got to make sure I give them something that makes them come back."

If Doherty does, he'll have solved one of the biggest mysteries in the South Florida sports community.

His successor at North Carolina believes he might have a clue to the answer.

"The more you invest, the more you can take out of something, whether it's the stock market or investing more interest and enthusiasm in a basketball game," Williams said. "When you leave, you should feel like you've been part of it."
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Article on Attendance at FAU and UM

Doherty's Disciples Deux may have to be formed sooner than previously expected.
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Article on Attendance at FAU and UM

Funny you mention that Ghost…It had been discussed between some of my friends this season, we were gonna make our own shirts. Dohertys Disciples/The Red Sea will be official next season, I promise you that.

Also, Coach discussed this article today at the luncheon and said he called the writer to complain about the negative slant of it. Apparently Omar Kelly owned up to writing it negatively because the other side of it wasn't as attractive and also, Doherty adamantly denies saying anything along the line of "realizing what he got himself into at the first game." He says he loves being here and wants to keep growing with the team!
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Article on Attendance at FAU and UM

We all have been complaining about how writers use that NEGATVICE slang in articles and it's not only easy to do, but does stir the mud a bit. It has become the norm in journalism and people tend to like to hear and talk about negative stuff - look at why all those news rags seem to profit ???

Imagine how that would look to opponents - a Sea of Red shirts bouncing up and Down!!! Break those damn bleachers.
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