The Rock Report

Geno Auriemma Needs To Shut Up About Attendance Figures....

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One thing that I have never understood in my time working in sports media is why players/coaches/organizations fire back at their fans.  The relationship between a fan and his/her team is something special and should by no means become a burden.  My personal experience with the Chicago White Sox led by a displeasure of the direction of the franchise officially ended this past off season because of their lack of forward thinking.   
 
However while fans can pick and choose who they root for/root against, the same simply cannot be said about the opposite.  Collegiate and professional teams rely so much on their fan base financially that any criticism toward the fans is a fight that teams will never win.  If you insult the people who support your program/team through the good and the bad, it simply is the beginning of your personal end. 
 
Geno Auriemma is a seven time national champion as head coach of the University of Connecticut women's basketball program.  He has over 700 wins in his career and is the current leader among active coaching in career winning percentage (.861%).  Auriemma is a six time Naismith College Coach of the Year award winner and has led the UCONN women to four undefeated seasons in his 26 seasons as head coach including back to back perfect seasons in 2008 and 2009.
 
With all the success the UCONN women have had in his tenure as head coach, the last people "Geno" should be taking on are the fans of the UCONN lady Huskies.

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Following his lady Huskies' 64-40 win over the ninth seeded Purdue in the second round of the 2011 Women's NCAA Tournament, Auriemma found some time in his post game remarks to insult the fans of UCONN's women's hoops.  Instead of talking about moving onto the sweet sixteen for the 18th straight time, Auriemma found it necessary to talk about all the empty seats in hometown Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.
 
"I guess we need to win more.  Everybody loves a winner, you know.  Maybe we should offer free parking, more giveaways," he added. "We should let some of the fans coach the team, maybe a guest coach every quarter."
 
"We have a spoiled group of fans who assume we are going to win, who assumed we would be in Philadelphia [for the regionals] and be at the Final Four," Auriemma said. "We had the season, the Big East in Hartford and now the NCAA tournament. You are asking them to do a lot. So I think we don't bid on [hosting the NCAA first round] for five years."
 
These comments followed a home tournament game that seats over 10,000 with 5,729 showing up for the game.  The UCONN lady Huskies went 34-1 overall on the season, including a perfect record on their home court.  While the Huskies split their home games between the on-campus Harry A. Gampel Pavilion and the XL Center (30 min drive between the two sites), the Huskies only sold out the Pavilion twice this entire season.   
 
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Looking at the home attendance at the Pavilion before the Huskies lost their record consecutive games streak on Dec. 30th of last year, they averaged 7,723 paid attendance per home game.  These were games against not one ranked opponent and the Huskies won by an average of 49 points.  While fans do enjoy a winner, would you come out to watch a team that wins by an average of 49 points against such big name teams as Holy Cross, and Lehigh?
 
Following the Huskies first loss in their last 90 games, UCONN played six more home games to close out their regular season schedule.  In the six games on campus that followed, the average attendance was 9,457 per home game.  Why is that you ask?  The teams they were playing were ranked teams like Duke (#3), Depaul (#13), and Notre Dame (#7).  While the lady Huskies product may be superior to all in the sport of women's basketball, you still need some recognizable competition to draw more fans to come out.
 
Using these two examples of on campus attendance figures, how do you think the UCONN lady Huskies drew at their on campus site against sub par women's teams like Hartford and Purdue?  A Hartford Hawks team that finished their season one game over .500, and a lady Boilermakers team who finished seventh in the Big Ten Conference?
 
How can Auriemma be so upset?
 
Rather than taking out his frustrations on the fans, he should be more thankful than anything.  Most women's collegiate basketball programs would kill for the "lackluster" attendance the UCONN women got in their matchup against Purdue.  The fact that the UCONN women get sellouts period (they had two this season at the Pavilion) should make Auriemma more appreciative that people come out and support his program.  Keep in mind too that the on-campus stadium is a good 27 miles from the city of Hartford, where the Huskies played six games this season.  Want to guess the average attendance of the regular games at the XL Center this season?   
 
13,357 per home game and winning by an average of 30 points per game over ranked and unranked opponents.
 
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How can Auriemma think that the fans of UCONN basketball are "spoiled"?  The fact that they show up both on campus and off campus to watch the UCONN product in the first place shows that Auriemma is the one who is spoiled.  Looking at last year's top attendance figures from the NCAA, there were only 12 programs in the country (including UCONN) whose season average attendance was higher than the 5,729 that saw Auriemma's complained about on Tuesday.  Add on the fact that only four women's programs average attendance last year was better than this year's Depaul men's basketball average attendance (Depaul finished the season 7-24  1-17 in the Big East).   
 
Rather than insulting the fans who do show up by bitching about the ones who do not, Geno Auriemma needs a reality check when it comes to the sport he dominates.  In the grand scheme of things, women's basketball is a pimple on the behind of the American sports landscape.  He should be grateful for the support his program receives year round in a sport that no one pays attention to all season and postseason long.  The only reason why women's buckets makes it on the evening edition of Sportscenter is because of the contract the NCAA has with the network itself.  Not one major sports websites (ESPN/SPORTSLINE/SI/FOXSPORTS) has a direct link on their homepage for the latest headlines in women's college basketball.  Does that not tell you how much the country pays attention to the product of women's college basketball?
 
Geno Auriemma.......shut up.
 
-RoCk
 
John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and Host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score
 
You can follow Rock at twitter.com/rockmamola

 
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