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Midweek Musing: Dwindling fan support to drive Jamie Dixon to UCLA?

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Would the TCU head coach leave Fort Worth because of home game attendance?

TCU Basketball vs Texas (1.23.19)
TCU Basketball vs Texas (1.23.19)
Melissa Triebwasser

It was suggested this week in the local news source of record that TCU’s Jamie Dixon should heed the pursuits of UCLA and take his talents to Westwood as the Bruins’ new head basketball coach. The latest reason Dixon should be interested in accepting this opportunity: so he can coach “at a basketball school in front of a full house,” suggesting that the perceived lack of fan support Monday night could upset Dixon enough that he’d schedule a “phone call with UCLA.” Alright, this is bold, antagonistic, lacking facts...sounds about right. Let’s take a closer look at the argument.

The basic premise of UCLA as an attractive job is not entirely ludicrous: UCLA has a long history as a blue-blood program, one of the most heralded and recognizable brands in all of college basketball, located in a massive market with beautiful weather. If UCLA were ever to return to the upper echelon of the sport, it would be a major achievement that would garner wide praise, admiration, and fame for whatever head coach could make that happen. Additionally, the Pac 12 Conference is ripe for the picking, with a much easier path to prosperity (the Pac 12 has an average NET rank of 104, good for 7th overall, 60 spots lower than the top-rated Big 12). An injection of even above-average coaching and on-court talent could put a program on the fast-track for success (this “NIT-caliber” TCU team that the author considers unworthy of Coach Dixon ranks ahead of all Pac 12 teams except Washington). There is no disputing this or the idea that any coach UCLA pursues should consider these positive facts if offered the opportunity to take the reins there.

There is also no disputing that TCU ranks well outside the top 25 when it comes to attendance. TCU has a small alumni base and small student body while being in a big city with infinite alternate entertainment options. I think we can concede the fact that Schollmaier Arena (capacity: 6,800) would not have the same feel as Pauley Pavilion (capacity: 13,800) if each were filled to the brim with diehard fans. However, the point made in the article was that Jamie Dixon should consider going to UCLA because there he would be greeted by a full house of baby blue-clad basketball-crazed fanatics every night. Interesting thought, how about a bit of a fact check, using official NCAA attendance records:

2017-2018 Season

Both UCLA and TCU reached the field of 68 in the NCAA Tournament

  • UCLA’s 2017-18 average home attendance: 8,619 - - 62.5% of capacity
  • TCU’s 2017-18 average home attendance: 6,561 - - 96.5% of capacity

2018-19 Season

A disappointing campaign for both UCLA and TCU

  • UCLA’s 2018-19 average home attendance: 8,269 - - 59.9% of capacity
  • TCU’s 2018-19 average home attendance: 6,562 - - 96.5% of capacity

Hmm, it would appear TCU fans do a pretty solid job of showing up to support Jamie Dixon and the Horned Frog basketball team. I do not know Coach Dixon personally, but I find it hard to imagine 1,707 additional spectators per game would have any impact on his workplace decision. Something to consider though: for the 2015-16 season, Dixon’s last at Pittsburgh, his Panthers ranked #49 overall in average attendance with 9,079 per game. That same season, TCU ranked #99 at 5,314 per game. Perhaps attendance is not his deciding factor after all.