published Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Basketball Dogs averaging 5,600 fans

Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox has his Bulldogs on a relative hot streak, with four wins in their last five games, but their home attendance is averaging less than 5,600 a game.
Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox has his Bulldogs on a relative hot streak, with four wins in their last five games, but their home attendance is averaging less than 5,600 a game.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Georgia Bulldogs are playing some respectable basketball these days under fourth-year coach Mark Fox, having won three straight games and four of their last five.

That's assuming anybody cares.

Georgia's average attendance through 13 games at Stegeman Coliseum is 5,594, which is well off last season's average of 7,079. Barring a substantial upgrade in support, the Bulldogs are on pace to post their lowest home average since 1977-78, which predates the Hugh Durham era.

"You wish more people would attend, but it gets back to winning," athletic director Greg McGarity said. "If you're winning and having a level of success, then your crowds will be there. We've been playing better, but we've got to do a better job of performing as a program. Nobody knows that better than Mark Fox, trust me.

"Our 2010-11 team averaged 3,000 students a game, so our fans will come when we start winning."

The Bulldogs are 10-11 overall and 4-4 in Southeastern Conference play entering Wednesday night's game at Tennessee.

Georgia and Ole Miss are the only league teams not averaging 6,000 fans per home contest, with Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Florida each averaging more than 10,000. This is the 50th full season for the Bulldogs inside 10,523-seat Stegeman, but they failed to create any electricity with early-season losses to visiting Youngstown State, Southern Miss and Iona.

"Obviously winning is attractive to fans, and we had a slow start," Fox said. "I think that our fans appreciate the effort of these kids and how hard they're playing. I think our players just enjoy playing, and they are going to continue to focus on trying to do the best that they can, and hopefully they can continue to get some support."

Six of Georgia's home games this season have drawn announced crowds of fewer than 4,900, and only one has surpassed 6,800.

The Bulldogs had an average attendance of 8,250 during the 2010-11 season, when they went 21-12 and lost to Washington in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Georgia went 9-7 in SEC play that year, the only winning league mark for the Bulldogs since the embarrassing fallout in 2003 from the successful-turned-turbulent reign of Jim Harrick.

Georgia's league record since is 52-100.

"When Bruce Pearl had it going at Tennessee, you saw that place packed," McGarity said. "When Kevin Stallings has it going at Vanderbilt, they have great crowds. Look at Ole Miss against Kentucky when they played last week. It's just a product of winning.

"If the SEC had as many ranked teams as the Big Ten does this year, everybody would say the passion for SEC basketball is off the chart. Right now you've got Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss -- that's three of 14 teams. There just isn't a buzz right now."

Odds and ends

Georgia sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was named Monday as SEC player of the week after averaging 19.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in wins last week over Auburn and South Carolina. ... ESPN has four SEC teams projected in the 68-team NCAA tournament, with Florida as a 1 seed, Ole Miss a 7 seed, Missouri an 8 seed and Kentucky a 10 seed.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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