Pre-season is fan base indicator

October 16, 2008
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hummelFor those who say the pre-season means nothing, I disagree. It’s a good indicator of a team’s fan base. While I didn’t expect the Indiana Pacers to draw hordes of fans for its pre-season slate, I was mildly surprised they didn’t sell out Pepsi Coliseum for their pre-season opener. I guess it’s time to stop leaning on the ABA past and start looking to the future. The crowd of more than 9,500 at the team’s game in Fort Wayne was more encouraging, especially given that only about 7,000 tickets were sold before game day. Last night’s announced crowd of 9,179 at Conseco Fieldhouse could be a sign of things to come in the central Indiana market unless the Pacers get off to a hot regular season start. I know, it’s only pre-season.

The Pacers will find out soon enough how loyal—and large—their fan base is, with the season opener against Boston fast approaching Nov. 1. With seven of the team’s first 10 games at Conseco Fieldhouse, November will be a telling month for the Blue and Gold’s prospects for fiscal 2008-09.

Indiana and Purdue won’t have to wait until their season openers in November to get a gauge. They’ll get an indicator during season-opening practice Friday night. IU has traditionally drawn between 12,000 and 16,000 for its Hoosier Hysteria and Purdue has seen interest intensify this year for its Mackey Madness, the first time it has been held in five years.

Purdue Coach Matt Painter is pushing for a 14,000-plus sell-out in West Lafayette. If he gets it, expect this to become an annual event. Given Purdue’s nationally ranked men’s team, a large crowd is likely.

With IU losing almost its entire roster after last season’s meltdown, the turnout at this year’s Hoosier Hysteria will be especially telling. And in Bloomington, this is about far more than school spirit.

With its football team tanking, IU can scarcely afford to see an attendance decline during its men’s basketball season. In 2007, the IU football team brought in $17 million. You should expect that to go down dramatically this year. During the same time period, the IU men’s basketball team brought in $12.3 million. A steep revenue drop in both programs could send the school’s athletic department back in the red.
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  • I predict it will be a very, very long season for the Pacers. They still have issues to sort out. Attitude reflects leadership.
  • I think IU fans will show that it's not just wins and losses the drive people through the turnstyles. The Hoosier faithful will rally behind the team if Crean does it the right way, and I think he will.
  • IU needs to do it the right way throughout the athletic department, and they still have some unfinished business there.

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  5. It is sad to see these races not have a full attendance. The Indy Car races are so much more exciting than Nascar. It seems to me the commenters here are still a little upset with Tony George from a move he made 20 years ago. It was his decision to make, not yours. He lost his position over it. But I believe the problem in all pro sports is the escalating price of admission. In todays economy, people have to pay much more for food and gas. The average fan cannot attend many events anymore. It's gotten priced out of most peoples budgets.

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