I read the well written article by my colleague Tom Groeschen asking the fair question about the absence of fans at the Shoe and I think of this often. I have an opinion and I'm sure you do to so lets have at it and see what comes of it.
I have often said the entertainment dollar in Cincinnati is a hard one to attract when you look at the cost, team, parking and competition; not only between opponents but like minded entities in this case the Reds, Bengals, Xavier and yes High School sports and more. As a member of the Greater Cincinnati Sports Corporation we find it hard to compete with other markets who have robust budgets and venues but we still try thanks to the steadfast efforts of Leslie Spencer the Executive Director and a solid board. One thing I have learned being on this committee and engaging with some committed Cincinnatians is that you can't stop trying and you have to find your niche and exploit it.
What is UC basketballs niche? I have my theories and I have other elements I think lend itself to raising the basketball profile not only locally but regionally. We have so much storied success here and arguably the best college basketball player to ever play the game along with many other tangible assets. The key is leveraging them for the program and its success in the stands. I believe it is a right now thing because with the uncertainty of the Big East, the opponents could get less than attractive even in the conference going forward which doesn't translate into sales. Take away Syracuse and Pitt who are leaving and you lose perrennial top ranked teams that have an attraction to the non-season ticket holder through proximity or alumni affiliation. So who do you replace them with? Hyphenated schools or Kentucky and North Carolina? The problem with the latter is that in many cases they won't play the better teams on the road for fear of upsets and that leaves the ones that people say they don't want to see. So scheduling isn't as easy as calling John Calipari at Kentucky and saying lets do a 2 game home and home; or Roy Williams at North Carolina likewise. With their respective conference schedules, the RPI ratings are rock solid so the benefit to them is less of a need.
So who then? Do you try and schedule teams who land the top blue chippers that don't go to the bigger schools? With their one/two and done style hopefully you can get them on the calendar. Do you offer some unique incentive to lure bigger teams here (what I don't know but that would be an NCAA issue)? Or do you promote your product knowing you can control that more than anything else? I will take the latter for $500. In saying that as Tom noted don't compare apples and oranges, i.e. Xavier. Basketball is their sport; men and women's and they do a great job of marketing the X with their ad campaigns. I would say it starts there in the marketing world with research, feedback, strategic plan, brand assessment and ultimately the deployment of a unique but highly effective campaign that endears people to the program, the coach and the players.
I also know there are people still mad at Bob Huggins leaving but gone also is Nancy Zimpher; that Kennedy didn't get the job but his off the court cab fiasco fell into another programs hands fortunately, and finally a team that had no name players and little success still leaves a bad taste in peoples mouth. Never mind Mick Cronin finally got UC back in the tournament, but they even won a game many said they weren't going to in beating Missouri. So how do you get people to move on and embrace the positives even after the upset to Presbyterian and a tough loss to an athletic Marshall team?
Treat these kids like your kids, its really that simple. They came to UC to fulfill a dream like your kids play to fulfill theirs. You try to attend all your kids games and make the effort to accomplish that regardless of what you may miss in the process. I am not saying they should be your child's equal but as a University of Cincinnati alumni and yes even a Cincinnatian you really could make this a difficult place to play again for visiting teams and a great place to play if you wear the C Paw. As a recruit you might feel like there IS something special about wearing the uniform. But for right now they see the banners, the trophies and the Big O, Oscar Robertson; but they don't see the fans. To an impressionable kid, that is the missing piece. So if you want big name players and a program to root for in the stands, you have to commit just like you want the player too. He has a choice of schools to attend and yes, you have a choice too. But if you're a UC alum do you really?
That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat