Charlotte 49ers basketball: The numbers never lie

| January 30, 2013 | 37 Comments
Charlotte is currently on track for one of the worst attendance years to date in Halton Arena. Photo by Chris Crews

Last Wednesday’s Whiteout game against Xavier had the second highest attendance of the season (7280). Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers are on track for the worst season attendance at Halton Arena since 1997

The atmosphere of a sold-out college basketball game is rare and elusive. Just imagine if Charlotte could experience this on a regular basis. Or, better yet, just imagine if Charlotte could fill 70% of their on-campus arena.

Attendance this year is utterly pathetic. This season’s attendance is the lowest in Alan Major’s tenure as the head coach of the 49ers. But to put into context, we’ve been on a steady decline since the previous head coach.

In 2009-10, the season in which Bobby Lutz was fired, the 49ers averaged 6,321 during the first 11 home games of the season. That’s approximately 69.4% of Halton Arena’s total seating capacity of 9,105.

The following year, 2010-11, Major’s first year as head coach, the 49ers averaged 6,192 during the first 11 home games of the season (the game against Tennessee that was played at Time Warner Cable Arena was factored in). That’s a difference of approximately 129 fans from the year before.

The least significant drop in attendance took place the following year, 2011-12. The 49ers averaged 6,132, which is approximately 67.3% of Halton Arena’s total seating capacity.

But here’s the kicker, the 49ers aren’t anywhere near that this season. Despite Charlotte’s 16-4 overall record and 4-2 Atlantic 10 record, the 49ers are averaging just 5,726 fans this season. That’s 62.8% of Halton Arena’s total seating capacity.

These numbers are not a direct representative of the actual number of fans in attendance.

And I know the attendance average will go up after the games against UMass (homecoming) and VCU. I would be stupid to think those wouldn’t have high attendance numbers. The point of this story is to raise awareness of the lack of attendance during the first 11 home games played this season.

The reasoning behind this varies from person-to-person, but it’s almost evident that students, fans, alums, are not buying into the current Charlotte record.

Everyone should agree that Charlotte’s non-conference schedule has greatly affected the optimism this season. Wins over Texas State, Lamar, Northeastern and Oral Roberts, most certainly didn’t help their cause.

Humiliating losses at Miami (46-77), at Richmond (61-81) and at George Washington (54-82) gives those who question the legitimacy of Charlotte’s record an extra leg to stand on.

While I think Charlotte is a potential NIT team, there was plenty of talk about possibly making the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening now.

If people are okay with the lack of attendance, then so be it. But as a student, you have an invested interest to be concerned.

My last column was to raise awareness of the lack of tradition and the embarrassment of not knowing the words to our alma mater. This piece is to shed the light that there is a problem and others need to challenge those in power to find a way to correct it.

The most common excuse that I hear on a regular basis is that football will change everything. Sure, it will, but don’t think things will get better in other sports just because of it.

Charlotte had the opportunity to cash in on being a member of the Atlantic 10, which has turned out to be a haven for college basketball’s elite.

The addition of Butler and VCU most certainly helped the league’s stature, but unfortunately, Charlotte is looking to Conference USA hoops with hopes of running that league.

If that’s not enough to excite the base, then it’s probably just a lost cause.

I’m not sure of the dynamic of this university or why it seems as if everyone just settles for mediocrity. But it can be frustrating. Most students are frustrated – just look at the upper level of the student section during a game for further proof – some alums are frustrated, and the city of Charlotte could not care less about what this basketball team can or will do. The team is hardly even discussed on local sports talk radio.

It’s time to find a way to become elite. Other schools are catching up and surpassing us. And, no, it’s not just because we haven’t had a football team. There are other reasons. Find it. Challenge it. Correct it.

Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll work on the attendance for women’s basketball games. After all, they’ve been far more consistent in recent years.

Average home season attendance at Halton Arena:

1997 – 5, 544
1998 – 6, 717
1999 – 6, 676
2000 – 6, 849
2001 – 7, 108
2002 – 7, 484
2003 – 6, 423
2004 – 7, 381
2005 – 7, 577
2006 – 6, 641
2007 – 6, 026
2008 – 7, 309
2009 – 6, 184
2010 – 6, 156
2011 – 6, 069
2012 – 6, 001
2013 – 5, 726 **

** Only 11 of 16 home games played.
Information from NCAA

Category:Columns, Served by the Butler

Comments (37)

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  1. Derick says:

    Lutzes numbers were inflated. Ask JG in the ticket office. Halton has NEVER had more that 8500 people in attendance. Yes even during the ‘sold out’ CUSA days.

    • Harry says:

      Really, I attended plenty of sold out games versus louisville, cincy, marquette. Halton rocked. Now the A-10 is starting to get interesting and we leave for crappy CUSA. All for a football program that i hope makes it to a bowl one day, but has no legitimate shot at a national championship. I am happy we got football, but what road games do I get to go to in CUSA? It will be fun to have football on campus, but all decisions made on behalf of the football program sucks. I wish basketball was staying put or we were starting our own league with some legit mid-atlantic/southern schools.

  2. Fred Flintstone says:

    The writing in the Observer is utterly pathetic. Finally an article on Charlotte and it is about the attendance? Really? This paper is beyond bad. Good fact checking as well – Charlotte is 17-4.

    • Hey Genius says:

      Fred, the link on the Observer site took you to Niner Online, the UNCC student paper (and an article written Jan. 30). Still want to criticize the writing?

    • Barney says:

      Hey Fred, you still read the “beyond bad” article and even clicked on Niner Online’s article, NOT Charlotte Observer’s.

  3. BOBBY says:



  4. tv22 says:

    Perhaps the university could promote their team just a little bit? We know more about when and where Carolina, Duke or State is playing than we do about our home town team. Maybe some advertising? Ticket specials? Family nights?

  5. WJS says:

    “This piece is to shed the light that there is a problem and others need to challenge those in power to find a way to correct it.”

    “Those in power” can’t fix this problem….it’s all about winning. Plain and simple. The fact remains that Charlotte hasn’t been a consistent winner since the early 90’s. There was a time, not too long ago, in the early 90’s when the 49ers consistently made it to the NCAA tournament. I would know because I was a student there at the time. I can even remember our games being televised on ESPN, a few times we even had Dick Vitale broadcasting from Halton arena…those were the infamous Cincy games with Bob Huggins…and yes those games were sell outs, people cared back then because we were winners and we expected to be in the NCAA tournament, CONSISTENTLY. Start winning and the interest from the city, sports radio, ESPN and everything else will return. Considering how poor our program has been over the last 10 years, I attended a game recently for the first time in years and actually, I’m quite surprised that we are even getting the attendance that we do have….As an alum, I want the best and I’m forever hopeful that we will always have teams that are easy to root for.

  6. E Helms says:

    There are several problems here. One is the schedule. Up until the addition of Butler and VCU, no one in our area could get excited about LaSalle, Rhode Island, Fordham, etc. Add to that a non conference schedule of mostly “nobodies” and no geographical rivals. So there is very little on the schedule to get excited about. The second is recruiting. Coach Major has not shown any inkling of a recruiting breakthrough. We used to have at least one or two guys who could shoot from outside and make three pointers. Not during Major’s tenure. Shooting has been terrible. The underwhelming schedule is probably a big factor in recruiting as well. Moving to the CUSA will make it even harder to recruit to Charlotte for basketball. The CUSA is certainly not considered an elite basketball conference, not nearly so much as the A10.

    I remember the days of little Davidson College drawing sell-out crowds to the old coliseum and playing major non conference opponents here and winning those games. It took solid coaching and recruiting, and they proved it could be done.

    • Sound of Reason says:

      The last two years have seen the best recruiting in several years. It is good to know how to shoot the ball, but if you are a turn-style on defense how does that help. You probably wish we still had Bowden on our roster. The name of the game is score more points than you allow. We’ve done that 17 times this season. It doesn’t matter if you can only score 60 if the opponent can’t score over 59. You have to schedule who will play you, and on the dates they can play you. This isn’t a video game where you can just choose. Given our rebuilding process the last couple of years it has been tough. More teams will want to schedule Charlotte after this season.

  7. WJS says:

    And on another note, the quality of college basketball has been on a slow decline for years, that is a fact. Attendence numbers and tv ratings are in decline nationwide……UNCC is not the only place where interest has declined…..On the bright side, we now have college football, where attendance and tv ratings are through the roof and have never been better.

  8. Trevaris Longsheets says:

    Why not sponsor an Express Bus to Halton from downtown or Southpark. Have you ever tried to get to a game from S. Charlotte? Count on an hour and then try to figure out where to park. If I lived in University City, I would go. As of now, it’s just too much of a hassle. And, who is this Alan Majors…say what you want about Lutz, but he was there every time the cameras were on. I am a huge sports fan, but I have only heard Majors speak like once. The program has to market hard and get in people’s face. The university sports programs are now an afterthought in Charlotte….maybe they’re a big deal in Cabarrus County, but not Charlotte…especially not in S. Charlotte.

  9. LongLoyal49er says:

    Decent article, albeit with too negative a tone. Some, and I do mean some, of us alumns have been asking serious questions about what, how interest and enthusiasm for the University as a whole and its athletic programs can be significantly raised. WIth over 50+K alumns in the Charlotte MSA, you would think that we could fill Halton several times a year. Certainly, one of the biggest issues is with the local media and press who seem to think that Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh are the centers of the NC universe rather than supporting the home teams of UNC Charlotte, JCSU, Queens. But, IMHO, there’s also issues with the University’s and the AD’s marketing programs, and with the Alum Assoc. I’m hard-pressed to understand how the U of Dayton can put 13,000 students, alumns and fans in its seats and Charlotte can’t (take a look at the Dayton Flyers and UD Arena websites)

  10. 49er Fan says:

    Great article! Much better writing than one usually sees on the “Disturber”..

  11. Shocked says:

    NEWSFLASH! A program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 2005 has seen avg attendance go down!

    Great detective work, Lou.

  12. Chris (Alum) says:

    I went to UNCC in the early 2000’s when the basketball program last mattered. I have vivid memories of heated games with a packed house against the likes of Bob Huggins with Cincy and Pitino with Louisville. Of course CUSA was blown up and we left for the A10 so we could play St. Bonaventure and UMASS, oh joy! I would rather we just go DII and join the Southern conference. How about get a basketball coach that recruits D-I talent! I’m tired of us having to settle for these guys that ECU wouldn’t recruit. Let’s try to keep some of the local talent maybe. Bring back Bobby Lutz if you have to, at least he could get the students and alums excited about the program! I am very excited about football and I do think that will change things for all sports as it will bring in money that can be sprinkled around the athletic department. I do think we probably need a change of leadership however. We need someone that can recruit and attract some better talent and then maybe we can improve our out of conference schedule to get back to the NCAA tournament. Go Niners!

    • Sound of Reason says:

      Last two recruiting classes were ranked in top 10-15 of Non-BCS classes. Maybe you haven’t followed very closely since the early 2000’s. If we stayed in CUSA we still would not have played Cinci or Louisville. They left first remember. If a 17-4 season doesn’t get people excited you could have Bobby Knight coaching and it wouldn’t make a difference.

  13. Jeff says:

    Really good info here.

    I completely disagree with the first comment. In my era (late 90s) I can remember the poorly attended South Florida & ECU home games. But I also remember the camp-out games where Halton was as sold-out as sold-out can be.

    The attendance numbers at the bottom of the box scores in recent years seem awfully inflated. It just doesn’t reflect the number of empty seats I see with my own eyes.

  14. Randy says:

    Thanks again Nathan. I appreciate your passion for the Niners! You continue to stoke my school pride.
    I watched the game against GW and was pleasantly surprised to find it televised locally – wish the outcome was different. As a local alumni I should make a better effort to attend games. Marketing, discounts, schedules are lacking. The school has my address but I receive nothing about sporting events – only pleas for financial support. The more UNCC is in front of me, the more likely I would be to attend functions. I have yet to see the inside of Halton arena.

  15. Tim Collie says:

    numbers are numbers. The main issue is the Niners play a putrid out of conf schedule. If they would just find top 125-150 teams to play instead of 320th worst squads the past 3 yrs, then the attendance would tick up. Being 12-8 vs a great schedule excites people more than 16-4 vs crap teams.

  16. jjmat says:

    I am an alum and have gone back to get an advanced degree at UNCC. The difference I have noticed is the takeover of the “commuter” college concept in that one only thinks of the school while one is there in class or at home taking an online course or accessing Moodle. How do you get this recent generation interested in campus activities while there is Play Station waiting at home? I have attended two gamees this year and sat in the student section, being a student, and despite being the oldest one there, I probably cheered louder than 50% of the students around me.
    I also do not think football will be the panacea that some folks think it will. UNCC will take decades to build a decent football program in which top tier HS students would even want to play for. I agree that we need better recruiting and I also have doubts regarding “how real” our record actually is. Being a basketball “powerhouse” in C-USA will not help recruiting one bit. We will get the leftovers from the real D-1 teams.

  17. Tim Collie says:

    I love Bobby Lutz. But he needed a change of scenery, mostly because him and the athletic dept were oil and water.

    That said, Judy’s first mission should of been to hire a salesman for the community (like Lambert). When you hire an introvert like Major who is god awful in front of a mic or press, then zero excitement will be generated. Hire charisma, play a top 100 schedule, and there is no attendance problem.

  18. Jeff Storm says:

    A coaches charisma has very little to do with selling basketball tickets. Anyone who thinks so probably doesn’t have a college degree.

  19. Alum04 says:

    If you are Alumni, make sure your contact informaiton is updated. You can do that on our website: We host various functions all year long including sporting events. For two years we have hosted a basketball night including passes to the pre-game meal. This event has sold out each year with a waiting list. Emails are sent out periodically with all of our upcoming events. Be a part of it!

  20. casstommy says:

    If only we’d have hired buzz peterson. He’d have set the city on fire!

  21. Bluto says:

    Went to a couple/few games every year and actually listened to games on the radio and knew when and where they were playing. Going to the A10 took away the excitement and I now don’t know or really care – Lutz at least brought excitement to the building, but he needed a change. Now leaving A10 to go to a skeleton of what CUSA was will make it worse. The football will not do anything to help and leaving A10 for it will hurt. I agree, they would be better off playing in the SoCon with rivalries with App St, Davidson, Wofford, Furman, Charleston, Ga Southern, etc. Who will they play in CUSA – the version of these schools Texas and Oklahoma style?
    I still support the Niners, by attending Womens Hoops (exciting stuff) and Volleyball, although I have been dissappointed and stopped going much as the new coach has reduced what was a competitive year to year team, to pretty much a joke.
    I am better with competitive games and a lesser record than blowing out those with RPI over 200, and not having a prayer with those under 150.
    As for football, the FCS is awesome football – why the need to have an NFL minor leage level team. After the first home game, let me know how attendance trends with that. I doubt it will be the money maker they hope it will be – and having it drag the other sports into CUSA will reduce them from middle of the road conference to WHO?

  22. Bill Dye says:

    Wow, some of you people should quit posting when it is painfully obvious that you are clueless at best, lying at worst. Charlotte made 10 NCAA tourney between 1988 and 2005 (8 between 1995 and 2005—-not the early 90s.

    We had MANY true sellouts (not 8500) where EVERY seat was filled, particularly from ~1998-2005. I know because I was there!

    Charlotte is currently 3-3 vs. the top 100 this season (not hopeless against the top 150).

    As for the author of the article, he needs some help as well. He failed to mention that Charlotte has been in the top 100 nationally in attendance every year since the mid-90s, including this season, it worst average over that time period. Yes, a little perspective would have been nice.

  23. Jeff says:

    Let’s see …

    A student writes an article on Charlotte 49ers attendance and provides some data for interpretation and discussion.

    On ninernation, he gets called a moron, a hack writer writing a hack article, gets accused of arrogance, is called lazy, is called ignorant, is accused of ‘conversing with Metro’, of writing a dogshit headline, and also being a bad writer. Also for simply stating the obvious.

    Those comments didn’t change my opinion of the author but they sure do speak volumes about ninernation. I suppose if anyone knows how to grow attendance, it would have to be that tiny segment of fans on ninernation with the easily bruised egos that are in a never-ending war with the rest of the fanbase.

  24. Steve says:

    I took my family to a UNC Charlotte game last year to counter-act my wife brainwashing our kids about the virtues of NC State. Our seats were up in the rafters where we were surrounded by nobody but not allowed to move a few rows closer by the usher. My kids got bored and hungry. I couldn’t feed them because the food stands did not take credit cards! They couldn’t wait to leave so they could eat. Plus the team lost.

    We haven’t been back. But we have been to several NC State Football and Basketball games, ate the concession food (where we used a credit card) and bought NC State hoodies which my kids wear to school almost everyday.

  25. OVER40 says:

    Over40 says you Niners who have criticized the attendance this year should be ashamed of yourselves. The attendance of games in the past proves Halton has always gotten great attendance including todays game.

    Things always stay the same and never change. We are still fighting the cold war, women shouldnt vote, and blacks use separate water fountains. Over40 needs to up his meds.

  26. Jeff Storm says:

    That’s too bad Steve but maybe it’s just you. I move seats whenever I want and the concession stands take my credit cards.

    Bluto- You check those attendance figures and also see how hard it’s going to be to get a ticket for football games.

  27. Oliver Closoff says:

    Fact of the matter is… today’s basketball is a crappy product and people don’t want to waste their money watching a mediocre team play in a crap sport.

  28. Josty says:

    It is Charlotte basketball. What excitement does this area bring in regards to college or professional sports. Not much loyalty in fan base regardless of team or school. NC is just brainwashed by all the NC State and UNC stuff… will never get past them. I say go to the Southern Conference and create a small but faithful following. Do not try to compete with the big boys even if you are one of the largest universities in the NC state system. Go a different direction cause Charlotte is a different area than Raleigh.

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