Butler basketball hits 40-plus-year attendance high

February 28, 2012
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In terms of wins and losses, this hasn’t been a banner year for the Butler men’s basketball team. At least it isn’t measuring up to the results of Brad Stevens’ last two teams.

Of course, there’s still time to turn this season into another shining moment for the Bulldogs program. Butler tips off Tuesday night in the opener of the Horizon League tournament by hosting Wright State.

In terms of attendance, though, the Bulldogs have already posted a victory. Butler has drawn more fans to Hinkle Fieldhouse this year than it has in nearly 50 years.

Butler attracted 115,232 fans to Hinkle for 16 regular season home games, averaging 7,202 through the turnstiles. The last time the Bulldogs are believed to have attracted that many fans was in 1964, when Butler averaged more than 8,000 per game. Butler attendance records from 1965 to 1969 are incomplete.

The team’s following has been on the upswing for several years. Last year, Butler men’s team averaged 7,178 per game, marking the first time the team drew more than 100,000 fans to Hinkle for the regular season in four decades. During the 2009-10 season average attendance was 6,852.

This year marks the sixth consecutive season Butler has led the Horizon League in regular-season attendance.

Not long ago, you could have fired a cannon in Hinkle Fieldhouse during a men’s game with little fear of hitting anyone. Consider, the Bulldogs drew an average of 5,516 fans per game during the 2008-09 season and just 3,593 during the 1995-96 season.

Butler this year sold out season tickets for the best seats in the house despite a per-game price tag of $91.67 for courtside and $30.50 for lower-level tickets plus a priority-points system that had many ticket buyers paying a few bucks more per game.

“Obviously, our success and runs in the NCAA tournament have helped,” said Mike Freeman, Butler associate athletic director. “Having more games on television both nationally—on the ESPN channels—and locally—on WNDY-TV—has brought about more exposure. Also, we have focused more effort on season ticket and group sales, with both increasing each of the last couple years.”

It would be easy to say Butler needs to keep Coach Brad Stevens to continue its growth. Already this year the rumors about Stevens have started. Illinois is reported to be the most recent team interested in hiring him. Of course the Bulldog faithful want Stevens to stay, and his salary has been amped up in recent years to assure hiring him away won't be easy. But Butler has shown it can grow and prosper despite coaching changes. And the continued commitment by university brass is encouraging.

James Danko, who became Butler’s president Aug. 1, wants to use the men’s basketball team as a key marketing tool. That’s a path Danko’s predecessor Bobby Fong took, as well.

“I’ve seen how leveraging athletics can lift the image of the entire university,” said Danko, former dean of Villanova University’s business school. “I absolutely see the athletic department, and the men’s basketball team in particular, as critical in doing that here.”

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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