Tulsa football fan attendance inconsistent at best
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Monday, November 19, 2012
11/19/12 at 5:26 AM
Here's a contrast that doesn't make sense:
In Conference USA, there is only one football team - the University of Tulsa - with a perfect record in league play.
In the 12-school Conference USA, the University of Tulsa ranks 10th in football attendance.
With an average of 47,152 per game, East Carolina is the leader. The University of Central Florida is next at 35,809. UTEP is third at 31,172.
Tulsa is 10th at 20,418.
One week after a resounding road victory over Houston, the Golden Hurricane returned to H.A. Chapman Stadium for Saturday's game against the University of Central Florida. The Conference USA West Division-leading Hurricane hosted the East-leading Knights. An interesting clash of evenly matched teams. The winner would secure a division title and a berth in the Dec. 1 C-USA championship game.
TU officials hoped for a sellout of the 30,000-seat stadium.
At the very least, the crowd surely would be in the neighborhood of 25,000.
For essentially this same game last year - Houston visiting TU, with the West Division title at stake - there was a crowd of 29,015 at Chapman Stadium.
To have expected something comparable for UCF-Tulsa was reasonable.
Instead, on a perfect football Saturday - 54 degrees and a clear sky - only 19,725 witnessed the Hurricane's 23-21 conquest of the Knights.
At the press box level of the stadium, none of the university officials outwardly groused about the disappointing attendance figure.
After the game, there were no complaints from TU coach Bill Blankenship and his players. Linebacker DeAundre Brown did mention that the stadium wasn't filled, but followed by expressing appreciation for the crowd noise generated during key sequences.
Such is life at TU, the smallest school in the Football Bowl Subdivision classification. TU appears to have a loyal football fan base of about 15,000. Beyond that 15,000, there are thousands more who would best be described as "occasional patrons." For any Hurricane football game, it is impossible to predict an attendance figure.
There were more people at H.A. Chapman Stadium for this season's victories over Fresno State (24,236) and Rice (22,567) than for the all-important UCF contest.
Sometimes, TU is cursed by playing at the same time that an Oklahoma or Oklahoma State game is being played. On Saturday, there was no such conflict. UCF-Tulsa began at 11 a.m. Texas Tech-OSU began at 2:30 p.m. OU-West Virginia began at 6.
After the Hurricane closes the regular season this week at SMU, there is a 99 percent probability that TU will host the Conference USA championship game on Dec. 1. What might the attendance be for that game? Could be 18,000. Could be 30,000. Could be absolutely any number in between.
Two years and two weeks ago (on Nov. 6, 2010), there was an unexpectedly small crowd for a Tulsa game. One week after TU won 28-27 at Notre Dame - at Notre Dame - a Chapman Stadium crowd of only 19,036 watched the Hurricane rock Rice 64-27. The conditions that day: 56 degrees and a clear sky.
Now at 9-2 overall, the Hurricane is one of 24 FBS teams to have reached the nine-win mark this season. TU's attendance average of 20,418 ranks 97th nationally, but it's not the lowest among the nine-win teams.
Kent State (10-1) has an attendance average of 17,793. At Northern Illinois (10-1), the average is 15,670. At Utah State (9-2), the average is 20,194.
The University of Tulsa would appreciate the revenue boost provided by a consistent 25,000 for football games, but Hurricane attendance isn't terrible. It's just inexplicably inconsistent.
2012 TU Schedule
Sept. 1: at Iowa State L, 38-23
Sept. 8: vs. Tulane W, 45-10
Sept. 15: vs. Nicholls St. W, 66-16
Sept. 22: vs. Fresno St. W, 27-26
Sept. 29: at UAB W, 49-42
Oct. 6: at Marshall W, 45-38
Oct. 11: vs. UTEP W, 33-11
Oct. 20: vs. Rice W, 28-24
Nov. 3: at Arkansas L, 19-15
Nov. 10: at Houston W, 41-7
Nov. 17: vs. UCF W, 23-21
Nov. 24: at SMU (FX-35) 11 a.m.
Original Print Headline: TU crowds puzzling
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
TU's Keyarris Garrett dives for the end zone Saturday to score against UCF. Tulsa won to clinch the West Division title despite fewer than 20,000 in the stands. BRETT ROJO / For the Tulsa World