AKRON, Ohio – As The University of Akron men's basketball team was making history on the court, Zips fans were making history in the stands as the program saw attendance increases across the board during the 2012-13 season.
In 16 home games this season, men's basketball attendance increased by 10 percent over last season, as well as seeing a crowd increase of 14 percent in Mid-American Conference contests. Student attendance proved to be one of the areas of greatest growth, jumping 28 percent overall from last year.
"The community support we saw this season was tremendous," ninth-year head coach Keith Dambrot said. "We would like to give a special thanks to the students this year as they did a great job coming out in record numbers. It is important to have a strong fan base as we continue to 'Think Bigger' and move forward as a program."
The Zips' average of 3,782 fans per home contest was the second-highest in Rhodes Arena history, trailing only the 1983-84 campaign, UA's first in the JAR. Akron's average attendance was the third-highest mark in the MAC while UA's 4,553 average for league contests was the second-highest in the conference. The Zips' 82.8 percent average capacity in league games was tops in the MAC, over 20 percent higher than the second-best mark (Ohio, 61.9 percent).
This season, 60,528 fans attended Akron games, 5,263 more than any season in Dambrot's nine-year tenure (since 2004-05). The Zips played before crowds of 5,000-plus on five occasions – the most in the Dambrot era – including Buffalo (5,403), Ohio (5,770), Bowling Green (5,247), Miami (Ohio) (5,189) and Kent State (5,699). The Ohio crowd ranks ninth-best in JAR history while the Kent State attendance checks in at No. 11 on the all-time list.
The area with the biggest increase came in student attendance, which grew by 28 percent over last season, including a 40-percent increase in non-conference games. This can be credited to a push in student-focused marketing, led by members of the 2012-13 squad. New cooperative initiatives with other areas of campus, including the Department of Residence Life and Housing, and the Department of Student Life, were critical to the increase in student attendance.
"Not only did this team excel on the court, they went above and beyond off the court to make students feel a part of the team," AK Rowdies President A.J. Fosselman said. "Having Zeke (Marshall), Brian (Walsh) and the other guys on the team take time to interact with students in the Rec Center, Student Union, and at other events went a long way towards getting the students to buy-in and support the team this year."
MAC East games also saw a huge jump in overall attendance, with increases of 36 percent overall and 35 percent among students.
In addition to the team's success on the floor, the increase in attendance can be attributed to an aggressive marketing strategy put into place by Zips Athletics.
This season saw a number of new promotions, including the LeBron James and Dambrot bobblehead nights (vs. Buffalo and Bowling Green), Social Media Night (vs. Ohio), and student-athlete trading cards [vs. Cleveland State, Princeton, North Dakota State and Miami (Ohio)], among others.