Tuesday, November 4, 2014

College | Washington volleyball on record run, will fans respond?

Huskies lead Pac-12 in attendance, but next five home matches are key
  • #11 Oregon at #2 Washington | Fri, Nov 7 | 7:30PM
  • Oregon State at #2 Washington | Sun, Nov 9 | 5PM

Volleyblog Seattle graphic | 2014 attendance through 11/04/14
After playing six of eight matches on the road, the Washington Huskies now look forward to five of seven at home. Despite an undefeated record (23-0) and lofty national AVCA ranking (#2), there are still questions to be answered … about Washington’s fans.

Through its first ten home matches, the Huskies have averaged 2,318 in attendance. While that’s still the best in the Pac-12, it projects (perhaps) to Washington’s lowest average since 2008, and the second-lowest in the past eleven seasons. What’s going on?
Volleyball Seattle graphic
data source: Pac-12.org
  • Historically, Washington’s biggest regular-season draws have been Stanford, UCLA and USC. In early October, the two LA schools attracted 4,031 and 2,282, respectively. That combined total is typical for the Bruins and Trojans, but in 2004 and 2009 the two schools drew combined crowds in excess of 10,000. Stanford typically draws in excess of 4,000, but this season, the Cardinal come to town the night before Thanksgiving, when few students will be on campus.
  • Across the Pac-12, the numbers are much the same. Over the past five seasons, attendance trends at Stanford, USC and Oregon—three of the biggest draws—are slipping. Middle-of-the-attendance-pack schools—Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA—are generally flat (though Arizona has a spike this year, and UCLA was flooded out of its home court most of the season.) Those at the bottom—Oregon State, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah and Washington State—are failing to pick up many new fans, though Colorado has a bit of an uptick. And California, a national finalist in 2010, has fallen off the attendance map since then.
  • The Pac-12 Network, launched in 2012, has undoubtedly had an effect. On the one hand, fans can follow teams most of the season from their living room couches, and potential recruits around the nation can theoretically follow along. On the other hand, even die-hard fans struggle to make it to the home arena when match days and starting times are all over the calendar. The 20 conference matches on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday nights have drawn an average of 1,850; its 33 Friday night matches average 1,522; while the 18 Sunday morning/afternoon matches a mere 1,069. Washington’s home match this Sunday against surging Oregon State has an unusual 5:00PM start time.
  • Nationally, Washington ranks 17th so far this season in average attendance. 7 of the top 11 are in the Big Ten, led by Nebraska’s 8,298. Hawai’i is second, at 6,120. Minnesota, with professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey teams in town, ranks fourth at 3,284, despite a 4-8 conference record. Schools like Northern Iowa, Colorado State, Wichita State and Louisville all rank higher in average attendance than any team in the Pac-12. The Pac-12, by the way, has a record 8 teams ranked in the latest AVCA national top 25.

Will Washington’s attendance improve over the next five home matches? In addition to that Stanford Thanksgiving showdown—which could feature #1 vs. #2, perhaps both undefeated—there is also rival Oregon this Friday, and the unpredictable Arizona schools in two weeks. Alaska Airlines Arena has hosted several electric volleyball matches over the years—remember Penn State in 2006? Nebraska in 2010? Oregon in 2012? UCLA last month? Frankly, watching on television can’t compare to the din in the Arena at match point of a five-set contest.

  • Washington libero Cassie Strickland was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. The award is overdue, but acknowledges her growing comfort at making impossible plays and lighting a fire under her team.
  • Washington middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon ranks third in the nation with 1.60 blocks per set, ninth in total blocks (131) and is 17th in hitting percentage (.410). Krista Vansant is 15th nationally in kills per set (4.56), 39th in total kills (.369) and 14th in points per set (kills + aces + blocks).
  • As a team, Washington ranks #3 nationally in hitting percentage (.323), #6 in blocks per set (3.10), #15 in total blocks (254), #19 in kills per set (14.13), 20th in assists per set (13.17), and 29th in aces per set (1.57).
  • The Huskies’ 23-0 start matches their best start in history, first accomplished in 2005, when they lost their 24th (and only) match of the season at UCLA en route to the national title. Oregon, UW’s next opponent, handed the Huskies their first defeat of the season in 2012 and in 2010. In 2009, a late-season 3-2 (15-25, 21-25, 25-23, 31-29, 15-13) loss to the Ducks in Seattle cost Washington a share of the Pac-10 title.
  • Colorado enters this week’s AVCA rankings at #21, joining #1 Stanford, #2 Washington, #11 Oregon, #15 UCLA, #16 Arizona, #19 USC and #20 Arizona State in the top 25. The Huskies travel to Colorado next Thursday, site of one of UW’s 3 losses last season.
  • Washington and Stanford are tied for the Pac-12 lead with 12-0 conference records. Four teams—Oregon, Arizona, UCLA and Colorado—are tied for third with 7-5 records.
  • Seattle University (10-13, 6-4 WAC) closes out its home schedule this Thursday at 6PM against WAC leader Missouri-Kansas City (21-4, 9-1) and Saturday at 1PM against Chicago State (6-20, 0-10).
  • Seattle Pacific University (11-11, 5-9 GNAC) is likewise playing its final home matches this week, Thursday at 7PM against Central Washington and Saturday at 1PM against Northwest Nazarene.

Data source: Pac-12.org


  1. We've gone from a famine (under FSN/Root) to a glut (under Pac-12 Networks) when it comes to live volleyball coverage, which definitely impacts attendance, with disadvantageous scheduling exacerbating the situation. Hopefully fans will start showing up for Vansant's last home matches wearing purple and gold.

    It is great if you're a volleyball fan - you've got a feast of volleyball matches on TV, plus great seats when you go to the matches.

  2. Thank you for a great article. You're probably right that the improved TV coverage cuts into attendance. It would be interesting to know what the Pac12 Network's viewership has been. Overall the number of people witnessing Husky games (in person plus TV) must be up considerably. In-person is much more exciting. We have our tickets for Stanford already and hope to see a couple of others.

    Cassie's award is well deserved and probably the first of many.

  3. I have been watching the matches on the Pac-12 Network on my computer or live streaming when it is not televised, but I do plan on attending the Stanford game and also have my tickets for the NCAA regional in December.

  4. spot on about TV and haphazard scheduling. We commute from SoCal for football and Volleyball and when they bounce them around to whatever day they want makes traveling a challenge. I also think tv is causing some problems for football and will also impact basketball.
    We are going to miss Stanford due to thanksgiving, and had trouble giving our tickets away due to scheduling.

  5. TV is convenient but going to the match is so much more fun. My daughter and I love to go regardless of the inconvenience. We bought Husky Gold cards this year which makes it really nice. Go Dawgs take it to the house!

  6. I'm a season ticket holder and for years, never missed a game. But the funky PAC12 TV scheduling has totally messed that up. The old Friday/Saturday evening PAC10 schedule was so much better. Getting to a game on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday during the week is much more challenging for those of us who have a job, especially given the traffic on 520 those nights! I may end up dropping my season tickets next year because it just doesn't make sense to have them when we can't make so many of the games now.

  7. The TV availability/schedule has not been the issue for me. What is the issue is the change in the way the Husky Gold Card is administrated. Up until last year it was $100 for the "Olympic sports" for a family (two adults and up to two kids) for the academic year. This year, they changed it to $50/adult and $40/kid for the academic year (an 80% increase for a family of four if you're keeping track). I have young kids that sometimes lose interest part way through a match and with this type of season's pass, I can leave without regret (other than missing the end which left to my own devices I never do) and do it a few times during the season. We did this for three years going to an occasional soccer game (men's and women's), gymnastics, baseball and softball, but volleyball is where we used it most.

    This year with the price increase and how often we get to use them on a kids' schedule, we opted not to do it this year. Maybe next year as they develop a bit longer attention span and a bit more schedule flexibility the increased price will be a bit more palatable.

    1. We dropped our gold card for the same reason. We went to five matches last year, but will probably only make one this year before the tournament. Schedule is tougher than in past years which only makes it worse.

    2. Try taking them to ONE Husky football game and you'll think differently about the gold card. We're going to the UCLA game Saturday and not even good seats cost us far more than the gold cards..

    3. We don't take the kids to football. They don't appreciate it. They do like volleyball and softball, soccer not as much. I don't have an issue with them dropping the family gold card, they are free to charge what they want, but if it doesn't pay for my family to have a gold card we will just pick the games we want to see and buy individual tickets for those. With very good coverage on Pac12 Network and a busy schedule we are going to attend fewer total Husky athletic events this year than the last few.

  8. Wow! Some of those Pac-12 attendance figures are shocking...shockingly low that is. Great chart. Thanks for publishing.


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