The USC men’s basketball team opened the 2011-2012 season earlier this month against Cal State Northridge — a team that finished with a losing record a season ago and remains ineligible for postseason competition this season because of a low Academic Progress Rate score. The NCAA penalizes program with scores below its 925 benchmark.
Nonetheless, the opening night game, held at the Trojans’ five-year old Galen Center, drew 5,172 fans, including a packed, standing-room-only student section.
One of the attractions for USC students was a reusable Trojan Fever cup giveaway that is good for free soda refills all season long.
“The students change the atmosphere in the Galen Center, so it is important to fill every game,” said Associate Athletic Director and Director of Marketing Craig Kelley.
The USC athletics-marketing department announced other initiatives to improve attendance for men’s basketball games at Galen Center in an email addressed to students signed by Athletic Director Pat Haden in early November.
Last season, USC averaged just 4,691 fans per game at the 10,258-seat Galen Center, the lowest in the conference, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times two weeks ago.
In an attempt to improve fan attendance, James Slagle, a graduate marketing intern, developed the Trojan Fever Loyalty Program earlier this fall so students can earn points and win prizes each time they attend USC football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, women’s soccer and select men’s water polo home games.
Large sandwich boards have also been strategically placed around campus to increase awareness about basketball game times, in addition to text reminders from the Trojan Text Alerts program.
There will also be free pizza given away in the student section at all games, and more student giveaways are being planned, according to Kelley.
The email from Haden vowed to improve food variety and quality at Galen Center concessions, and indicated plans to implement in-seat ordering by the end of the season.
USC students already have free admission to basketball games, but there are now reduced ticket prices across the board for men’s and women’s basketball games.
In addition, the four entry tunnels at the Galen Center have been painted cardinal and gold and decorated with Trojan imagery to replace the less inviting gray concrete.
“[Athletic Director Pat Haden] has made it clear to fans, students and staff that filling the Galen Center is his priority,” Kelley said. “Our student-athletes deserve the support of their fellow students, and we are here to get them into the Galen Center.”
The players have noticed the large crowds through the first three men’s basketball games of the season.
“I like how the crowd was hyped,” sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon said after the game against Cal State Norhridge. “It was a lot of fun.”