ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lobo women’s basketball attendance this past season averaged 7,090 per game, the lowest figure since 1997-98. Horrors! This might even drop UNM out of the national top 10, where it has resided the past 11 years.
Imagine how thrilled San Diego State women’s coach Beth Burns would be to have 7,000 fans — or even half that — at Aztecs games.
As lucky as Lobo women’s hoops fans have been to have Don Flanagan as UNM’s coach the past 15 seasons, Flanagan’s equally lucky to have those fans. In San Diego, Burns has no such luck.
As reported in the attached Tim Sullivan column in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Burns is frustrated. For the second time in her career, with a stint at Ohio State in between, she has brought a winner to Montezuma Mesa — only to be virtually ignored by the paying customers. SDSU’s average attendance was a beneath-paltry 914 per game for a team that went 23-11 and advanced to the NCAA women’s Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen.
In her frustration, Burns has company. For all the success Elaine Elliott has had at Utah, the fans in Salt Lake City haven’t rewarded her; the Utes’ average attendance this season was 1,135.
The suggestion is that Burns, in her frustration and disappointment, might go elsewhere if SDSU doesn’t make a major financial commitment to her program. To what purpose? Will any amount of advertising and promotion, or any amount of salary increase for Burns and her staff, get San Diego Joe Fan through the turnstiles?
Besides, the situation most other places isn’t a lot better. Sullivan notes that former SDSU athletic director Mike Bohn, now at Colorado, has fired CU women’s basketball coach Kathy McConnell-Miller. Greener pastures for Burns? Well, a little. Even when former CU coach Ceal Barry was winning championships, the Buffs averaged around 3,000 fans a game.