In the past week, I’ve been to two men’s basketball games at Oral Roberts University and one men’s game at The University of Tulsa. There are a few things both teams have in common.
Both ORU and TU are not drawing very many fans to their games. The Golden Eagles are averaging only 2,191 fans per game in their first six home games. ORU plays in the 10,500-seat Mabee Center, which, believe it or not, used to be full several times a year. Even when the Golden Eagles didn’t sellout, many times in the past the upper section would be open and fans would be seated in the nose bleed seats. However, it’s been a long time since that were the case.
Tulsa, on the other hand, is averaging 4,137 per game in eight home dates thus far. That includes a season high of 7,431 in attendance for the home opener against Lamar. However, three days later, when Tulsa hosted crosstown rival ORU, the attendance was only 4,437. The Golden Hurricane play in the 8,355 seat Reynolds Center.
I was at the Tulsa – UConn game last Wednesday, and I was shocked that with such a big opponent in town there were only 3,903 at the Reynolds Center.
I don’t mention the teams’ attendances to make fun of them or to shame them. Both schools are doing a great job of promoting the basketball teams and offering low-priced tickets. Plus, both arenas have a professional feel with music, cheerleaders, and timeout promotions. In fact, if anyone should be shamed, it’s their alumni bases.
Certainly, both Tulsa and ORU have more than just a few thousand alumni living in the Tulsa area. It’s sad that regardless of how the teams are playing, the graduates of the universities don’t feel a loyalty or obligation to attend the games.
I understand fair-weather fans when it comes to minor league or major league professional sports teams, where you pay a whole lot more for parking, tickets and concessions, then you do at either university. If the pro team in your town is having a bad year, nobody wants to go and spend that kind of money to see a lousy team play. But why do Tulsa and ORU not get better support from their local graduates? Win or lose, it doesn’t cost much to support these teams.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a graduate of ORU, where I played on the soccer team and worked in the Sports Information office as a student. As a former student-athlete, I’m a dues-paying member of the ORU Varsity Club, which supports the current athletes. Over the past 28 years, I have been intimately involved with my alma mater. Twice I have been the radio broadcaster, totaling three seasons of basketball broadcasts and six seasons of baseball. For years I’ve been doing various public address announcing at ORU, and currently, I do the P.A. announcing for men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, baseball, and women’s basketball. I also play trumpet in the Pep Band for the men’s basketball games.
However, even if I wasn’t so involved at ORU, and getting paid to be there, I would still be attending at the very least the men’s and women’s basketball games, just to support MY university. How come my fellow graduates don’t feel the same way?
Another thing TU and ORU basketball teams have in common is that they both got off to a slow start on the season, but are both playing very well now that they’ve hit the conference portion of their schedules.
Currently, Tulsa is 10-6 overall and 3-1 in American Athletic Conference play, while ORU is 7-11 overall and 3-0 in Summit League action.
These are two teams that deserve the attention of basketball fans in the Tulsa area, and at the very least all of their local alums.