The victories are fewer to come by for the Georgia men’s basketball team this season.
So are the number of fans in the seats in Stegeman Coliseum.
As the Bulldogs have gone from 9-7 in the SEC in 2011 to 3-10 this season, their home attendance has dipped to an average of 6,783 — a drop-off of 1,467 fans per game.
Georgia had the ninth-largest increase in attendance last year in NCAA Division I when the Bulldogs earned their first NCAA tournament at-large berth since 2002, but the team has had the second biggest drop-off in the SEC this year behind Tennessee.
“You notice, but it’s not something you pay that much attention to,” sophomore forward Marcus Thornton said. “You don’t really put your focus on the crowd or how much noise there is because the game is played in between the lines.”
With two home games to go, including today’s 4 p.m. tilt with No. 12 Florida, Georgia has had one home sellout — against Kentucky—after selling out games against Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Florida last season. There were two sellouts in coach Mark Fox’s first season.
“Fan support is very important,” Fox said. “Having people’s support is having a home-court advantage. I think our team is not as good, and I think attendance is an issue nationally for most people.”
General public reserved seat tickets for today’s game against the rival Gators are sold out, but 800 student tickets (out of about 3,000) remained as of Friday afternoon.
“It is a great boost to have great crowds, but sometimes you’ve got to play in all different environments, whether it’s a sell-out or if it’s nobody in there,” senior guard Gerald Robinson said. “People want to see good basketball. If you play hard and play basketball the right way, people will come support.”
Georgia’s drop-off in student tickets — down 1,053 per game for SEC games — is largely responsible for the decrease in paid attendance this year.
“Ultimately it’s going to come down to winning and losing and the product on the floor,” said John Bateman, Georgia’s director of marketing. “I personally think that (junior NBA departures) Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins were worth another 500 fans a game. When were we’re on campus selling student tickets, we would hear stories like, ‘I’m going to go tonight because I’ve got no idea what Travis is going to do tonight.’ People were excited to see what he might do.”
The proliferation of televised games also could be a factor, Bateman said.
Every SEC game is aired and when Georgia drew 5,622 for a Wednesday game against Arkansas earlier this month, Bateman said there was competition from a televised North Carolina-Duke game.
SEC schools this year are averaging 11,473 fans per game, up from 11,187 last year, but The Wall Street Journal reported that the average home attendance at Atlantic Coast Conference men’s games has fallen in each of the previous four seasons and was tracking well below the final average from 2006.
Fox has pointed out that student attendance has lagged at, of all places, Duke, with its noted Cameron Crazies.
Students filled about 700 of 1,2000 seats a game this season while school was in session, according to The New York Times. The school has sold student tickets to nonstudents.
Bateman said Georgia’s final home attendance this season will be about 7,100 fans per game after the Florida and South Carolina games complete the schedule.
That, too, could depend on how the team performs, though.
“My focus is on us trying to win games,” Fox said, “and when you win certainly you’re interest is higher.”
No. 12 Florida at Georgia
WHEN/WHERE: 4 p.m. today/Stegeman Coliseum
TV/RADIO: SEC Network/AM 960-The Ref.
RECORDS: Florida (22-6, 10-3 SEC), Georgia (12-15, 3-10 SEC).
PROBABLE STARTERS: Florida - G Erving Walker (Sr., 5-8, 177, 12.4 ppg, 4.9 apg); G Kenny Boynton (Jr., 6-2, 189, 17.6 ppg, 2.6 apg); G Bradley Beal (Fr., 6-3, 1207, 14.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg); F Erik Murphy (Jr., 6-10, 230, 10.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg); C Patric Young (So., 6-9, 247, 10.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg). Georgia—G Dustin Ware (Sr., 5-11, 172, 7.9 ppg, 2.1 apg); G Gerald Robinson (Sr., 6-1, 180, 14.2 ppg, 3.6 apg); G/F Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Fr., 6-5, 200, 13.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg); F Marcus Thornton (So., 6-7, 235, 3.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg); F/C Donte’ Williams (So., 6-9, 220, 7.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
SERIES: Florida leads 106-98. The Gators have won 15 of the last 17. Georgia leads 61-36 in Athens.
LAST MEETING: Florida beat Georgia 70-48 on Jan. 10 in Gaineville. Beal scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds and Boynton added 17 points. Florida shot 50 percent for the game. Nemanja Djurisic led Georgia with 14 points.
SEASON AT A GLANCE: Georgia lost its third straight game on Wednesday night and seventh in the last nine games, 61-53, at LSU. The Bulldogs, a game ahead of last-place South Carolina, now get the two top teams in the SEC—the Gators and No. 1 Kentucky—before closing out the regular season a week from today against the Gamecocks. Florida has won three straight after dropping back-to-back games to Kentucky and Tennessee. The Gators turned back Auburn 63-47 on Tuesday night in Gainesville, holding the Tigers to 17 second-half points.
NOTEWORTHY: Georgia freshman center John Cannon, used sparingly this season, played a season-high 14 minutes against LSU. He scored four points and had three rebounds and a block. Bulldogs coach Mark Fox said Cannon finally is comfortable offensively. “When the matchups are right, I think you’ll see him play more,” Fox said.…Ware is shooting 21.5 percent on 3-pointers in SEC games. He’s 1 of 16 the past two games. …Florida forward Will Yeguette, averaging 4.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, broke his left foot late against Auburn and is out for the season. …The Gators lead the nation in 3-pointers per game at 10.3 and are 12th in 3-point percentage at 40.0 Boynton leads the team with 3.4 per game and is second in the SEC in scoring. …Florida is 4-5 on the road this season.