As if Georgetown men’s basketball’s attendance numbers were not low enough — coming in at 8,879 per game last season, the second lowest figure since the 2005-06 season — the 2016-17 schedule will surely guarantee record lows.
At first glance, the schedule seems incredibly rich in entertainment. Matchups against Maryland, Xavier, Butler, UConn and Villanova at home are exciting to me and any other Georgetown basketball fan — not to mention road dates with title-contending Oregon and bitter rival Syracuse.
However, the Xavier, Butler and Villanova games are scheduled for Dec. 31, Jan. 7 and March 4. The former two are in the dead heat of winter break, with Xavier at 11 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, an awful TV time in addition to projecting as horrible for attendance for students and locals alike.With Georgetown not allowing students to stay in dormitories and apartments over winter break, the chances of any students being able to attend the game are slim to none.
As a student from the area, I was able to attend the Creighton game over winter break in the 2014-15 season. My friend and I arrived five minutes to tipoff and walked straight to the front row without any problems; the Verizon Center was beyond empty.
To exacerbate an already awful attendance situation, Xavier is one of the top teams in the nation, with pundits and polls projecting a top-10 season from the Musketeers. A marquee Big East matchup outside the limits of almost every student’s schedule is folly on the part of schedulers.
Although the Hoyas are coming off a 15-18, 7-11 Big East performance last season, they still play in the Verizon Center, one of the few college arenas that also doubles as a professional arena.
A game like Xavier deserves to be played at a time where the most people can watch it.
And that is just one game. Butler has recently been one of Georgetown’s closest competitors in the conference, with almost every recent game coming down to the wire, and like Xavier the game will be played at an inconvenient time for students.
The Jan. 7, 12 p.m. tipoff time is convenient for local fans, as most vacationers will be back, but students are not allowed to move back into their on-campus housing until Jan. 10. Mark the battle as yet another marquee matchup likely to be lacking in attendance.
Perhaps the most egregious oversight on the part of the Big East in terms of scheduling its conference games is Villanova. The Wildcats are the Hoyas’ biggest in-conference rival and always make for one of the best home games of the season both in entertainment and attendance, posting well over 11,000 spectators each of the last three years.
The March 4 game is the day after most people leave for spring break. While the university allows students to stay in campus housing for the weeklong holiday, many opt to return home, go on vacations with their friends or do other programs over the break.
And while I personally will be staying to watch the game — the team’s final home contest of the season and thus senior night — asking all other students to change a entire family’s plans for a single game is unreasonable.
The truth is that most Georgetown students could not care less about the men’s basketball team. Compounding this problem with primetime games that are far easier to miss than make, attendance numbers are likely to dip even further.
Ultimately, the onus is on the Big East to schedule Georgetown — still one of its biggest names despite recent struggles — and some of its highest profile games at dates when more students and more fans can catch the action.
However, the scheduling does speak to the writing on the wall: Mediocrity will not be tolerated in prime-time scheduling.
After two non-NCAA tournament seasons in the past three years, Hoya basketball demands a lot less fanfare and exultation than even in its late 2000s glory days. As a result, it almost seems silly to demand high level games at convenient times.
Still, that caveat does little to address the greater problem at hand. For a school whose student body seems unwilling to give a night up of studying or club meetings for a big game, it is ridiculously poor judgment to schedule these otherwise seat-filling games at times when their crowd-drawing allure ironically cannot seat fill.
Without the attraction of big games on Saturday afternoons to entice on-the-fence fans to support the team all season long, only the team’s play — and a needed improvement from last year’s 15-18 performance — can bring hype for the basketball team back to the Hilltop.