Georgia hoping for attendance boost at Stegeman

semerson@macon.comFebruary 8, 2013 

ATHENS - Attendance can be a sensitive issue for a coach to talk about publicly. For someone in Mark Fox's position, you don't want to criticize the fans, and you also realize your team's 7-11 start didn't help matters.

Now that Georgia is on a four-game win streak - three of the wins coming on the road - the crowds could start to improve. And there's a lot of room for improvement.

Georgia's home attendance is the worst in the SEC, at 5,594. The next-closest is Ole Miss at 5,783.

Fox was asked Friday if he wished the fans would get out more.

"Oh, I think that these kids have committed themselves to this school. And they all graduate. They're good citizens, and they're playing their tails off for Georgia. And I think people appreciate that and hopefully they'll show their appreciation by coming to the game."

And if they don't come when you're on a four-game win streak is that a worse sign?

"I don't get caught up in all that," Fox said, then turning it into a less local issue: "We've got a great fan base here. And there's a lot of games on TV. When the greatest programs in the history of college basketball are not selling out their arena then you know there's an issue nationwide with attendance."

Fox didn't name any teams, but there are some examples: Kentucky's attendance, still tops in the nation is down to an avereage of 22,764 this season, from 23,701 last season. Syracause, which was second nationally in home attedance last year, has seen its average crowd go down by about 3,000. Louisville, which was third nationally last year, has also seen a slight downturn.

And there was an announced crowd of 14,876 at Tennessee on Wednesday, for a Volunteers team that is now 11-10 overall and 3-6 in the SEC.

In other words, Georgia has played well in front of some fairly big crowds lately, so the value in returning home isn't immediately clear.

"I think it will pick up," Georgia star Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. "If not, we're just gonna continue to do what we do."

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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