Now that IU is out of the Big Ten basketball tournament, local organizers and tourism officials have to hope that Ohio State can make a run. A successful run by Purdue probably wouldn’t hurt either, but history has shown that Buckeye fans will travel to Indianapolis if their team has tournament success.
In the four years the tournament has been held at Conseco Fieldhouse, the attendance has been way up in the two years OSU made the finals. And that had nothing to do with Greg Oden and Mike Conley.
Tournament attendance here was a record 94,402 in 2002, the year OSU beat Iowa in the title game. Attendance was 90,763 when the Buckeyes lost to Iowa in 2006.
By comparison, attendance at the 2004 tournament in Indianapolis was 77,012 when Wisconsin beat Illinois in the finals. And in 2008, when Wisconsin again beat Illinois in the finals, tournament attendance was 80,012. You would think the fans from Illinois would flock to Indy, but the numbers prove otherwise.
In 2004, the title game drew 14,617 and in 2008, the title game drew 14,579. Compare that to 2002, when a record 18,996 stuffed Conseco Fieldhouse, and in 2006 when 17,591 fans poured in to see the championship game.
With the economy the way that it is, sports business experts think the tournament could be in for a rough road financially this year. So excuse the folks with the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association and downtown hotels and restaurants and other retail outlets today if they are wearing Buckeye red. There appears to be lots of economic reasons to be rooting for Ohio State this weekend.
Ohio State squares off against Wisconsin today at 2:30 p.m.