Butler basketball attendance sees big bounce

March 11, 2010
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Butler University men’s basketball team saw a big bounce in attendance this year—one of its most successful on the court in recent history. That success included 30 plus wins and the Horizon League regular season and tournament titles.

Per-game attendance at Hinkle Fieldhouse soared from 5,516 during the 2008-09 season to 6,953 this season. The downside for Butler is it had four fewer home games this year than the 17 played at Hinkle last season.

But revenue for the team, sports business experts said, is definitely up. Butler, a private university, does not release financial data for its athletic teams or department.

Butler officials explained that there were fewer home games this year because the team instead played in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., and the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. Events like those usually come with a solid payday.

Of course, there’s also increased travel expenses getting the team to those far away destinations that limit financial gains.

Since average attendance was so much higher this year, total attendance only fell slightly from 93,776 in 2008-09 to 90,394 this season.

Financially speaking, the Butler men’s basketball program is certainly doing better than it was 15 years ago.

During the 1995-96 season, the Bulldogs drew only 43,120 ticket-buying spectators to 12 home games. During that year, when the team compiled a 19-8 record, Butler had average attendance of 3,593 per home game.

During the 1996-97 season, Butler drew 52,012 to 12 home games, good for a 4,334 average as the team compiled a 23-10 record.

It still remains to be seen if Butler has enough to retain coach Brad Stevens. The 33-year-old coach makes a low to mid six-figure annual salary and the school recently sweetened his deal. But it won’t be much of a barrier if bigger schools, which routinely pay $1 million plus annual salaries for head basketball coaches, come calling this off-season.  

  • Stevens
    Brad Stevens isn't going to go anywhere unless it is for an elite job, like Sean Miller going to Arizona from Xavier. Those kind of jobs just dont open very often. Something like Wisconsin when Ryan ever decides to leave would be of interest, but that is the sort of thing you would be looking for. Brad Stevens will be at Butler for the foreseeable future and probably lay waste to every coaching wins record that is tallied.
  • Train Keeps Rollin'
    As a Butler fan (not alum) and season ticket holder, thank you for this blog. For basketball fans in central Indiana who enjoy well played basketball by great kids who bust their tail, do yourself a favor and come out to Hinkle next year.

    Brad Stevens is a really good coach. We may lose him one year. We lost Barry, Thad and Todd and have not missed a beat. My guess is that either current assistant Mathew Graves or tOSU assistant Brandon Miller would get the nod and keep the ball rollin'.

    Although the increase in attendance is noted and welcomed, Hinkle holds 9,000 plus. To borrow a Bill Benner quote..."Go to a Saturday afternoon basketball game at Hinkle Fieldhouse, when the sunlight filters through the south windows. For that matter, go to any game, any time, in Hinkle".
  • Not so sure...
    Brad Stevens is not leaving. He left his job at Eli Lilly to become an assistant at Butler (a volunteer assistant if I remember correctly). So, long story short, money is not going to really entice him to move. I agree, if the "dream job" becomes available and he is called upon, no one would fault him for going. I certainly wouldn't.

    But will he be called upon is the real question. I am not a firm believer he would be in consideration for those positions. The problem is "The Butler Way." Butler's work your tail off, shoot the ball well, and play good defense generally only holds water in the Horizon League and keeps the team in games with stronger opponents because the games are kept close due the the half-court offense Butler runs. Fast break is never their game plan.

    Todd has experienced some bumps at Iowa because he has not been able to recruit athletes because he never had to at Butler. Butler rarely misses a beat with coaching changes because it is a system that is easily filled with local Indiana talent that is over-looked by the big programs due to a lack of size and athleticism. Thad has been successful because he has been able to recruit the Evan Turner's, Mike Conley's, and Greg Oden's of the high school basketball world.

    At the end of the day, Brad wanted to be a coach at Butler and left a lot of money on the table at Lilly to do so. He is going to need 3 or 4 more years like this year to prove he is ready for "the next step" to a major conference. Keep in mind, he is 33. His time could come but it is just not now because although ranked, Butler is not an elite basketball school. In my opinion, continued success is the product of a well-run system and a weak conference. Butler does not exactly have the best record against quality opponents. For example, losses to Minnesota (6th in Big 10), Clemson (6th in ACC), and Georgetown (7th in Big East) prove Butler struggles when faced with athleticism and size. Are they a good team? Yes, absolutely. I applaud their success and support them moving forward, but perspective is important. Stevens is going to have to prove himself against better competition before a Wisconsin or an Arizona come calling.
  • Brad Stevens
    No reflection of Coach, but when you take over a solid program with talented and smart players they ususally make anyone look good as slong as they don't change the philosophy. No way to know if he can really recruit and coach at the major level. Look at the problems at Iowa. As far as Ohio State..the school sells itself.
  • Need Bodies....
    I'll give you guys the fact that Brad took over a team with Graves and Green and Campbell that I couldn't have screwed up (well...maybe not)...but the job that he did last year starting three freshmen was great...PLUS the four freshmen that he brought in were tremendous....and the the three kids we get for next year and Cody Zeller in 2011...(wishing)...that's the value of Brad.
  • Elephant in the room . . .
    I think Brad will stay for at least 3 more years, but probably 5 and maybe more depending on opportunities that open. Here is the big question though: What happens if Butler makes the Final Four in Indy this year? What if they win? Would it then finally set Brad apart from Thad and Todd?
  • Reality for Butler fans
    People...money talks to anyone eventually. And, no matter how much he may like Butler, there will come a point where the financial security he can bring for his family by accepting even a lower level job in a major conference will outweigh anything else.

    It's more of a question of when he leaves than if. Butler simply can't afford to pay a coach anywhere near what even lower salary major conference jobs pay. How many of us would really stay at a job forever when someone else is willing to pay you three or four times more a year to do the same thing somewhere else?

    The bottom line is that the Butler coaching job is a minor league farm club for coaching jobs at the bigger schools. That will never change unless Butler moves to a larger venue (which they won't) and can average 15k or more a night paying higher prices for tickets than they currently do.
  • Style of play
    To the commenter above, your thoughts on Butler's style of play are not current. Butler limited possessions and restricted fast break (transition) opportunities under Coach Lickliter. Under Brad Stevens those things have become an important part of the offense, in fact, Ron Nored sometimes pushes it when its not there.

    Today's Butler Bulldogs are nothing like the Bulldogs of 5 or 6 years ago, Butler is athletic and strong and will lock you down defensively. BU rates 16th in the country in defensive efficiency. BU is actually more similar (by the numbers) to Purdue's team in 08/09 than any Butler team this decade.
  • Coach and AD....
    Toss this one in the wind...Brad and Barry already have a hand shake that Brad will take over AD's position down the road...combine AD salary with coach's salary and its closer to what a larger school can pay...PLUS...he is seeing the beating that Todd is taking...there is such a thing as quailty of life....
  • A bird in the hand ...
    None of us know if Coach Stephens will be offered a lucratve job elsewhere, and if offered, if he'll take it. Yes, the $$$ may be enticing. But he's making good money, living a comfortable life in a Midwestern city with a relatively low cost of living, where he can be successful. Quality of life. it's important.
    I've had an offer in my profession to improve my annual income by staggering numbers. But I turned it down. Why? I make decent money already. I have a job I enjoy. I'm surrounded by employees who I have an excellent working relationship with. I know what I'm going to every day. The job I was offered is in a different city, larger organization, too much turnover in departments I'd be responsible for. So ... it's not always about the money. Would Coach Stephens rather be paid fairly well at a top mid-major like Butler, or take his chances at a larger "BCS" school that is at the bottom of it's league in order to get bigger bucks. That's what it comes down to in my mind.
  • Go Butler
    Several of the comments above seem to be misguided. First off, when Brad took over he was given a team full of seniors. Yes, maybe you and I could have coached that team to 20-25 wins. However, since then he deserves are the credit in the world. Other than Gordon, who on the team has been top tier division 1 talent? Thatâ??s right, no one. Heâ??s coached these guys (who are fun to watch) into hardworking, hardnosed, team first ball players. Butler plays everyone tough â?? win or lose. How many times has Butler lost by 10+ in the last three years? ZERO! He has is players prepared for every situation of every game. Thatâ??s the sign of a great coach â?? not that weâ??re arguing this point.
    I donâ??t think it will be money that drives Brad to another school. He is - and most coaches at the college level are - extremely competitive. Iâ??ll think heâ??ll leave for a new challenge not for the million dollar contract, which will be there. Brad is a smart as they come. He not is leaving a good thing, which Butler is, for money alone. Heâ??ll find that combination of the right challenge that also rewards him accordingly.
  • Fans ?
    In other words....the place is just over half filled? Good luck in trying to keep the coach.

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