From the beginning of Buzz Williams’ first season as head men’s basketball coach at Texas A&M, he has taken the Field of Dreams approach to attendance.
If you build it, they will come.
A season into rebuilding the program, his idea slowly began to come to fruition.
According to A&M ticket scan data obtained via an open records request, home attendance saw a gradual uptick as the Aggies closed out the regular season en route to a sixth-place tie in the Southeastern Conference. Through the Aggies’ final four home games against Georgia, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Arkansas, A&M averaged 5,294.75 scanned tickets, up from the 3,466.17 in its first five home conference matchups.
“People relate so well to Buzz and his style of play,” A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said. “I think absolutely people will buy into the product.”
The numbers say there is still plenty of work to be done. A&M averaged 3,750.53 ticket scans per home game this season, the lowest average over the last four seasons. The 2018-19 season was the second lowest at 4,437.59 scanned tickets per game.
Three of A&M’s lowest attended games over the last four seasons, per scanned tickets, were during the 2019 preconference schedule against Louisiana-Monroe (1,473), Troy (1,559) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1,468). In the three seasons prior, the Aggies had not had less than 2,000 ticket scans for a game. On average, A&M scanned 3,342.75 tickets per nonconference game this season, fewer than the 3,734.71 from the 2016-17 season.
Conference game ticket scans came out to a 4,113 average this season, below last season’s average of 4,686.33.
The Aggies’ highest ticket scan total over the four-year period was the 2017-18 home contest against Kentucky with 11,973.
To fill empty seats in Reed Arena’s lower bowl, Williams tweeted Wednesday that those with tickets in the upper deck next season will be able to move into vacant lower-level seats at halftime.
With a year under his belt as A&M’s athletic director, Bjork has now had time to analyze what small fixes can be made to Reed Arena to improve the overall fan experience and draw more students to the games. Larger improvements to the arena could be put on the backburner as the athletic department monitors a budget hit with the cancelation of spring sports, he said.
“Obviously, we want more people in the stands, so no one is ever satisfied,” Bjork said. “To see the building operational and to see what is holding us back, I think we can do some quick things and some easy things to just make it better for the fan experience.”
Williams has frequently said that he views success as the relationships he is able to build with his athletes. Wins will come as a result of that foundation. As is typically the case, a barometer of success in basketball is found in the rafters of the arena.
“When the [upper-level] corners are full, then we’re doing the right thing,” Williams said after the Aggies’ win over Louisiana-Monroe early last season.
NOTES — A&M’s overall tickets sold equaled 118,112 last season or 6,948 per game. Over the previous three seasons, A&M averaged 7,255, 9,128 and 8,161 tickets sold per game. Schools use that number when announcing attendance, not the actual number of tickets scanned.