SJU Basketball: Understanding Tradition

Sixteen thousand nine hundred and nineteen fans per week.
Unfortunately, this is not the average number of fans that attended Red Storm basketball games last year. No, this number represents the difference in average attendance of a St. John’s home game and the Kentucky Wildcats who ranked first in Division I home attendance last year.

Now, I understand that it seems quite unfair to compare the Johnnies to a historical basketball team such as Kentucky. Just think, Kentucky has won the NCAA Championships seven times in the program’s history, and is the all-time leader in total games won in college basketball history.
Yes, quite an unfair comparison.

But I guess that’s if fans forget the fact that St. John’s is steeped in basketball history. Forget the fact that they rank fifth on the list of all-time wins. Forget that it holds the eighth highest ranking all time for winning percentage. Forget the 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, the two Final Four appearances, and the eight Big East Championships.

Forget that the Johnnies hold the record for most NIT Championships and NIT Final Four appearances. Forget the six Hall-of-Famers, forget the 11 All-Americans, forget Louie, forget Joe, forget Chris, forget Ron, Bill, Mark, and the other 55 players that left St. John’s to play in the NBA.

Yes, as fans and supporters of the Red Storm, there is obviously no history to celebrate, no reason to support a continued tradition of basketball excellence at the University.

Yet, even with so many reasons for fans to be excited about what might be the best team St. John’s has put on the floor in the past five years, attendance has been meager. With two games under their belt already this season, the average home attendance is 4,146 people, which is 1,698 fans fewer than last year’s average.

While this drop does not appear to be a dramatic decrease, keep in mind that last year’s average garnered St. John’s a ranking of 91st in the nation in average attendance. Oh yes, 90 teams averaged a greater attendance last year including such powerhouses as Tulsa, Rutgers, Evansville, Baylor, UNI, Bradley, UTEP, Dayton, and Oral Roberts.

Take notice as well to the current trend each season with the basketball attendance: in 2002 St. John’s ranked 46th in the nation in attendance averaging 9,299 fans per game. The next season their average dropped by over a thousand, and by 2004 the Red Storm was averaging 6,849 fans to earn a ranking of 77th in the country.

Just four seasons later the Johnnies are only drawing half of the number of fans and do not appear to be turning things around.

With one of the best freshmen recruiting classes St. John’s fans have seen in recent years, support appears to be diminishing. Despite the reemergence of a lively and sometimes antagonistic student section, a strong front of fans has yet to arrive to lift the Storm.