Opening rounds of NCAA tourny struggled to bring in fans

The Sports Pavilion had a poor turnout for the first two rounds of the tournament.

Andrew Krammer

For a volleyball program that continuously ranks in the top-five for national attendance, the Sports Pavilion was oddly vacant during the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

FridayâÄôs match against North Dakota State only drew 1,664 fans, while the second round against Washington drew even less with 1,325 fans in attendance.

For a 2011 season in which Minnesota finished fourth nationally in attendance âÄî bringing in an average of 3,635 fans per home match âÄî the low turnout was unexpected.

The poor weather over the weekend and a lack of promoting the matches likely contributed, athletics spokesman Garry Bowman said.

However, Friday saw no precipitation while Saturday brought the biggest snowfall of the winter with four inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Promoting the regionals may have confused season-ticket holders into thinking the tournament would not start until this weekend, Bowman said.

Minnesota hosted the opening rounds in 2008 and 2010 and averaged well more than 2,000 fans per match.

 Specifically in 2010, an opening round matchup with NDSU brought in 2,385 fans, while the following match against Creighton had 2,586 fans.

Minnesota opened against NDSU in 2008 as well and drew in more than 2,500 fans to the Sports Pavilion.

Minnesota did particularly well in attendance for the 2011 regular season and had the fifth largest single audience in college volleyball this season when it took on Nebraska on Oct. 15 in front of an announced crowd of 9,354 at Williams Arena.

The Sports Pavilion will play host to the NCAA regionals for the second time in three years when No. 13 Minnesota plays No. 4 Iowa State at 7 p.m.  this Friday.

In 2009, regional attendance averaged 2,851 fans and the expectation for this year is no different, Bowman said.

Minnesota has been chosen to host the 2014 NCAA Volleyball Regionals as well, marking the fifth time the volleyball program will host a regional.