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Butler University / Sports Business

Butler basketball attendance sees big bounce

March 11, 2010

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.  

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