While Oregon defeated Nebraska 60-38 Saturday, less than half the arena was full with 6,102 in attendance.
Despite their 9-1 record and being on the cusp of being ranked in the top 25, Oregon has had low attendance numbers in non-conference play. In the eight home games this season, six games have seen attendances less than 6,000. The biggest crowd Oregon has gotten this gotten this season is 9,137 versus Vanderbilt. While that attendance number would have sold out the 9,087 seat McArthur Court, it filled up less than 74 percent of Matthew Knight’s 12,364 seat arena.
During the 2007-2008 season, the last season Oregon made the NCAA tournament, Oregon had six sellouts and a capacity rate of over 99 percent in conference play. Even during Oregon’s 2008-2009 season, where they went 8-23 season and 2-16 in conference, they had a capacity rate of nearly 88 percent.
In comparison to McArthur Court, Oregon’s raw attendance numbers at Matthew Knight is bigger, with 14 crowds bigger than Mac Court’s capacity. But with Matthew Knight having more than 3,200 seats than Mac Court, Oregon’s attendance numbers have been lacking.
Now in their third season at Matthew Knight, Oregon has only had three sellouts, with all of those sellouts coming in the Ducks 2010 opening season.
While Oregon had strong attendance numbers in their first season at Matt Knight, with a 92 percent capacity rate in Pac-12 games, last season wasn’t as successful. In the 2011-2012 season, Oregon’s first full season at Matthew Knight, the capacity rate went down to 75.4 percent in Pac-12 games and 62.3 percent overall.
One reason for the low attendance numbers were high ticket prices. The Oregon athletic office recognized those concerns and introduced season tickets for $150, a 50 percent reduction from the previous year.
Another step the athletic office made was creating an outbound sales team to make calls in an attempt to sell tickets over the phone. One of the things Oregon won’t do is discount tickets, because according to Craig Pintens, Senior Associate Athletic Director/Marketing and Public Relations, that devalues the ticket.
This season Oregon unveiled the United We Ball campaign with billboards and television advertisements. More money has been spent on this season’s campaign than in any other season, according to Pintens. And while the campaign has not led to an increase in ticket sales, Pintens believes the campaign has been a success because of the awareness it rose about this season’s men’s basketball team.
The rise of new television networks are also a double edged sword for Pintens. Every Oregon basketball game will be broadcast on a television network, in large part due to the launch of the Pac-12 network this year. The networks dissuade fans from seeing the game live if they can just watch it on TV, but also spread national awareness about Oregon through extensive TV coverage.
Oregon is just in the beginning stages of building a culture at Matthew Knight like they do at Autzen Stadium, which currently has an 89 game selling streak.
Part of building a culture is setting high expectations and Pintens says “We’re not happy until we sell out every game.”
And why should Oregon be fine not selling out every game, they have one of the elite arenas in all of college basketball in Matthew Knight and an exciting, up and coming team looking to shock the Pac-12.