Sunday, February 8, 2015


A lot of people go see college basketball.  A lot of people in the Richmond-DC-Baltimore corridor go see college basketball, as we're blessed here with a number of marquee programs. 

Maryland had over 14,000 turn out for the last men’s home game at the Xfinity Center (the win over Penn State).  And we were amongst the 10,937 in the stadium today for the women’s win over Nebraska.  Virginia’s pulling in almost 15,000 to John Paul Jones for men's games down in Charlottesville.  Just three weeks ago, we were four of the 14,281 at the Verizon Center for Georgetown's win over Butler.  

Virginia Commonwealth has routinely drawn 7,637 to the Siegel Center.  The University of Richmond sold out the Robins Center (7,201) for its loss to the University of Rhode Island today; George Mason got 6,473 into the Patriot Center for their loss to VCU on Wednesday; George Washington saw 4,579 come out to the Charles E. Smith Center for its win over Dayton on Friday night; and there were 3,847 at the SECU Arena for Towson's loss to James Madison yesterday.  

Some of the local teams play to smaller crowds.  Mt. St. Mary's last home game, a win over St. Francis (PA), got 2,524 people out to Knott Arena in Emmitsburg. When the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s men’s basketball racked up another miserable loss in a miserable season to Binghamton two weeks ago, there were 748 people at RAC Arena.  American University’s men’s team drew 1,230 folks to Bender Arena for their victory over Loyola last Wednesday.  Loyola, for its part, got 1,449 out to Reitz Arena for its disappointing loss to Lehigh last night.

As a general matter, local people go see college basketball.  Stadiums are built on campus and these stadiums are filled for basketball.  But with the entry into the Big Ten this year, the Xfinity Center in College Park is seeing people turn out for a lot of different sports.  

There were a lot of people at the women's game this afternoon and it took a long time to get off camps once the game was over.  While waiting, we had sometime to talk about all the different sporting events we've attended at Xfinity this academic year.  So far this season, we've been in the stadium for a volleyball match, against Penn State, that drew 4,522, for the remarkable "Beauty and the Beast" joint gymnastics-wrestling event that brought out 2,091 people, and then, this Saturday night, for the gymnastics dual against the University of Michigan that set an attendance record for that sport at Maryland with 2,207 people going through the turnstiles.  The one event we didn't make this past weekend that I had hoped to go to was the wrestling dual against Iowa -- for which 2,139 people walked into the stadium.  

Overall, the volleyball team ranked 25th in the country in terms of attendance this season, averaging 1,539 at each home match.

These numbers are crazy.  

And they're not driven by students.  Instead, on a weekly basis, people outside of the University are streaming onto campus to watch something at Xfinity.  Many of these people will become part of the University community -- our ties to the school are certainly growing, as we'll send our kids to camps there this summer and were at these athletic events with other families that intend to do so as well.  

There are probably all kinds of good reasons to quarrel with the move to a new conference.  But the switch to the B1G certainly promises an opportunity to grow many sports that had no similar prospects in the ACC.  In the meantime, what has been happening at Xfinity this year is a living, breathing example of how a academic institution's athletics program can be a public good.