For the first time since 1993, fan attendance at Maryland basketball games dropped out of the top 25 nationally, according to numbers released by the NCAA. After ranking 25th in 2012-13 and consistently dropping down the rankings in fan attendance over the past four seasons, Maryland landed at 26th and averaged 12,557 fans per game, less than 100 shy of NC State, ranked 25th.
Here's a chart of the declining attendance over the past few years.
One of the largest dips came in 2011-2012 when Mark Turgeon took the reins of the team, posting a similar record to Gary Williams's 2007-08 squad with significantly smaller attendance numbers. The numbers have gotten smaller since, although the average attendance figure was notably higher in 2013-14 than 2012-13, despite the drop in the national rankings.
Maryland ranked fourth in the ACC behind Syracuse, North Carolina and NC State. Had they been in the Big Ten this past season, Maryland would have ranked 10th behind Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan.
Is this a cause for concern?
It is and it isn't. Fans will always abide by the old adage "if you win, they will come," so if the wins start rolling in and the program can escape its current mediocrity, it stands to reason the fans will show again. The reason its a concern is it at some level reflects fan opinion of the program. In 2001, even playing inside of tiny Cole Field House, Maryland attracted an average of 14,058 fans a ball game, filling the stadium to maximum capacity. Nowadays, in a stadium that seats 17,950 people, over 5,000 seats are vacant during games.
There are a lot of factors that play into the fan attendance. This past season, Maryland was curiously left with a poor home schedule in their final year of ACC play. North Carolina, Duke and NC State didn't make the trip to College Park, and although Virginia and Syracuse were huge home games, losing those classic rivalry games at home certainly didn't help ticket sales (although Maryland still pulled in more fans than the year before). There's more hope yet for the future: football's ticket sales are rising with the conference move, and the new opponents will likely bring more seats in the house -- at least temporarily. For Maryland to get back to playing in a packed arena, the wins have to start coming soon.