PROVO -- Months after the conclusion of the season, Cougar basketball fans continue to make noise with the NCAA's announcement that BYU men's basketball achieved the nation's largest average increase over the prior season. In the process, BYU averaged the 17th largest crowd in the nation last year at 14, 468.
BYU had an average increase of 5,838 from the 8,630 that attended Cougar games the prior season during the 2002 Winter Olympics. Pittsburgh had the second largest increase, up 4,129, followed by South Carolina (3,900), national champion Syracuse (3,898) and Maryland (3,400). Weber State had the 11th largest jump in attendance with an 1,870 increase.
Kentucky led the nation in overall home attendance at 22,271, followed by Syracuse at 20,921. Ranked 17th nationally, BYU had the second highest attendance among Mountain West Conference teams behind 12th-rated New Mexico (15,186). UNLV was 27th with an average crowd of 11,764, followed by Utah (11,518) at 29th.
As a conference, the MWC achieved a record high, ranking fifth nationally with a league-wide average of 9,694. The Big Ten Conference, a perennial leader in men's basketball attendance, led the nation for the 27th straight season with a 12,526 per-game average. The Atlantic Coast Conference finished second (11,542), followed by the Southeastern Conference (11,106), and the Big 12 Conference (10,110). After the MWC to round out the top 10 were the Big East Conference, Conference USA, the Pacific-10 Conference, the Missouri Valley Conference and the Atlantic 10 Conference.
"The fans are a big part of our success -- we have great fans," BYU coach Steve Cleveland said. "We've been working hard to recapture the magic of the Marriott Center so it's nice to receive that kind of support from the students and the community. We have great young men in our program that play hard and are exciting to watch."
On the court, the Cougars held the nation's longest homecourt winning streak for much of the year and won their second conference title in the last three years, earning an NCAA berth. Off the court, BYU teamed with Richter 7 to create an award-winning advertising campaign. Other marketing initiatives, such as the Books Before Basketball education program involving more than 80 public schools in the valley, were introduced in 2003. Other factors included fewer home games being televised during the preseason and the adoption of the national norm of reporting paid attendance.
"There is nothing that can compare to the fan experience, the energy and the excitement of actually being at the game," BYU marketing director Tony Jewkes said. "We should do even better next year. We have a very good and exciting team coming back, what should be an excellent home schedule including very competitive non-conference games and as always, we have one of the finest and largest arenas in the country."
For a complete look at the NCAA Stats, click on: www.ncaa.org