Jason S. Haslam
To John Chaney, it’s mind-boggling. But the numbers don’t lie.
It’s a well-documented fact that the Hall of Fame coach has unleashed his displeasure on Philadelphia fans. Now Chaney is taking out his frustration on Temple fans specifically.
“I can’t get the damn students out of the dorms to come here to watch these games. They don’t pay for these seats, but they’re in the dorms,” Chaney said. “That’s always been a concern, to build our fan base. Students pay the activities fee, yet they don’t come here for games. It’s a shame.”
Since Chaney arrived here, he has built quite a reputation for playing one of the toughest schedules. These marquee opponents should generate a stronger attraction for fans.
“I don’t think anyone has played as many top 25 teams as we do,” he said. “I just want to bring these teams back here for our fans to see.”
This season the Owls will face the likes of Auburn, Duke, Wake Forest, Maryland and Arizona State.
Asked if fan support has lagged due to the Owls’ inability to make the NCAA tournament the last three years, Chaney dismissed the notion.
“It had nothing to do with it. They ain’t never been here,” he said. “We’ve made tournaments. The tournaments have nothing to do with it. If you’re a basketball fan you come out and support your team. You come out and support them whether you win or lose.”
Still, a closer look at the numbers reveals a disparity between the seasons the Owls make the NCAAs and those in which they don’t.
During the past two years, when Temple missed the tourney, the team drew an average attendance of 5,782 (2003-04) and 5,792 (2002-03). During those two seasons the Owls drew under 5,000 fans in 11 of 28 games. The Liacouras Center has a capacity of 10,206. In the four seasons prior to 2002-03, the Owls drew 7,667 a game and only twice during that span fielded less than 5,000. They made the NCAAs in three of those four years.
“We got 7,000 students living in dorms and they can’t come out to a basketball game,” Chaney said. “They can’t come. Here’s the dumb part: They’ve already paid for it. The activities fee, they pay. Maybe we should charge them twice as much. I bet that would make them come out.”
Chaney does have a point about fan indifference. Especially if you consider the legacy he has created since he took over at Temple 22 years ago.
“Right here we’re talking about two teams in this city who are historically the two winningest teams, and that’s Penn and Temple,” he said. “Where are you going to find that? [The fans] just have no knowledge of history. None. That angers me when I come out here and I see the same fans and no students.”
Last season, two of the lowest turnouts for home games were during Chaney’s 700th career win and when David Hawkins notched his 2,000th career point. The attendance barely broke the 4,000 mark.
“In history we’re one of the top-winning teams, so you should have some pride, but they don’t have pride here. None,” Chaney said. “They don’t go out and support the women’s team. Dawn Staley has been in the NCAAs the last couple of years. They didn’t come out and support her.
“The greatest time to build a feel of pride is with the freshman. Why can’t we? Many kids come here because of athletics. You don’t fill a university with some 30,000 students for just English, math and history.”
Jason S. Haslam can be reached at email@example.com.