I talk a lot about attendance figures in the blog, because it's pretty obvious that the Big East won't take the next step toward becoming a more dominant league until it attracts more fans (preferably ones with deep pockets). The Big East didn't have a single team in the top 30 of average home attendance in the NCAA this season and only placed half the conference in the Top 50.
Here is how the league stacked up in the final NCAA attendance figures:
32. West Virginia 57,317 per home game
38. Pittsburgh 53,446
40. South Florida 52,553
47. Rutgers 49,113
59. Syracuse 39,043
60. Connecticut 38,229
68. Cincinnati 33,957
71. Louisville 32,450
Now for the good news. Average home attendance for the Big East overall was up 3.5 percent this season over 2008, and five of the eight teams saw their attendance spike upward. Here's the list by biggest gains:
Syracuse: up 14.3 percent from '08
Rutgers: up 13.7 percent
Pittsburgh: up 7.7 percent
Cincinnati: up 5.9 percent
South Florida: up 5.5 percent
West Virginia: down 0.9 percent
Connecticut: down 2.9 percent
Louisville: down 22.3 percent
These numbers aren't surprising. Syracuse's attendance, though still weak at times, experienced a spike with the excitement of new coach Doug Marrone and a more competitive team. Rutgers opened an expanded stadium this season. Pitt and Cincinnati both had Top 10 teams, while USF had appealing home games against Cincinnati, West Virginia and Miami to help boost the numbers.
West Virginia's attendance was basically the same, while UConn's dip is harder to explain. And if there's anyone doubting why Steve Kragthorpe had to be fired, the Louisville figures say it all, especially with an expanded Papa John's Cardinal Stadium coming on line in the fall.
All in all, it's good to see the Big East attendance on the rise. Teams like West Virginia, UConn and Cincinnati don't have much higher to go with their current stadium size, but others like Louisville should be able to increase the traffic in their stands simply by winning more games.