PAGE 9 THE CATS' PAUSE, DECEMBER 31, 1977
SEC Schools Set Attendance Marks
I may be in the midst of basketball season around the country, but it's also time for football bowl action and NCAA's boasting of record-shattering attendance marks on the gridiron.
Statistics just released last week show nearly 33 million fans flocked to the stadiums for the big Sturday pasttime this past fall and the SEC was no exception.
SEC Commissioner Boyd McWhor-ter was beaming right alongside the big boys, and there was good reason. The SEC played before 3.3 million fans, that a 3.3 percent increase and an all-time per game average of 55,338 at SEC schools on the average Saturday.
Only the Big Ten, thanks to Michigan's 104,000-seat stadium, outranked the SEC in conference attendance across the nation. The Big Ten played before 3.7 million and a per game average of 59,443. That figure was a slight decrease from last season.
Penn State, which hosted Kentucky this past fall, led the independents in attendance, averaging over 62,000 per game, followed by Notre Dame, South Carolina, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech.
Only the total home season attendance mark wasn't broken and that's because of the seven-game home card during 1976. This past season the Wildcats played only five times at Commonwealth Stadium.
But the other new marks are impressive. The Cats played before an average home crowd of 57,897, up from the record 56,212 the year before.
Kentucky played before 603,867 fans in eleven games during 1977, as compared to the previous record of 598,502 during 1976. And Kentucky put on its show before an average of 54,897 fans each Saturday during the course of the season, up from the previous record-setting crowds of 54,509 in 1976. Bowl games are not included in the stats.
Had it not been for two games, the figures would have been much higher. The attendance marks at both Baylor and Vanderbilt were well below the 40,000 mark or Kentucky probably would have averaged close to 60,000 per game.
Likewise, the SEC marks suffered trmendously because of three schools in particular, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Vandy officials have been debating whether to go big-time for the past decade but won't get off the fence-post.
Instead of arguing with coach Fred
Pancoast, the school should get off its fanny and build a big, new stadium like Kentucky's. Then, the Commodores will enjoy success like the Wildcats.
Ole Miss and Mississippi State are caught up in a sparsely-populated state with too many good football teams for everyone's good.
There's so much rivalry and bitterness, the two schools cut their own throats. Like two years ago when Mississippi State and Kentucky were playing at Jackson in one of the Sooth's best games. Meanwhile, over in Oxford, 01 Miss was celebrating homecoming against one of the nation's finest, Georgia.
It was plain stupid to schedule two big games like those the same day at
the same time so close together. In the end. less than 68,000 fans saw both games combined. There should have been that many fans for each game had there been proper scheduling and an adequate stadium.
No doubt, there will be pressure from other SEC schools to update the programs and attendance at those schools. After all, if Kentucky can do what it has in football, why can't everyone else?
In fact, Kentucky is already lending an eye toward expanding its relatively new 58,000-seat stadium. The Cats could easily have filled a 70,000-seat stadium last season and there's no reason to expect a decline in interest.
We'll have a wrap-up on the SEC's bowl participation next week. Only two
SEC clubs are bowling this season, LSU in the Sun Bowl and Alabama against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Kentucky would have received the invitation to the Sugar Bowl had it not been on probation.
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Basketball teams are picking up the steam in the SEC, especially Alabama and Florida, but both Tennessee and Auburn hit the skids in action last week.
Alabama finished second to Indiana in the Indiana Classic, falling to the Hoosiers 66-57 after nudging bv Princeton 61-60 in the opening round. Reggie King is the big spark plug for the Crimson Tide right now.
After getting off to a Fine start, Tennessee has now lost three in a row, the finals of its own tournament in Knoxville, and both games in a Las Vegas tourney last week.
The Vols bowed to Utah, then lost to both Iowa (92-86) in the Vegas first round and by 93-86 to Northwestern in the consolation contest.
Coach Cliff Wettig has been getting good scoring from Terry Crosby and Reggie Johnson, but youthfulness is a glaring weakness at the present time.
Auburn continues to be up and down. Last week, it was a downer when the Tigers fell to little Iona on the road. This past week, Auburn was shooting for a reversal in the Sugar Bowl tourney in New Orleans.
LSU escaped with a 68-67 win over DePaul when Joe Ponsetto missed the front end of a bonus free throw try with only two seconds left in the game.
It also saddled DePaul with its first loss of the season. Jody Hultberg paced the Tiger attack with 18 points while teammate Kenny Higgs chipped in with 13.
Hard-luck Ole Miss lost another toughie on the road, this time a 70-67 decision at Memphis State.
Showing surprising power against tough State, Ole Miss held a 39-31 halftime lead but Ole Miss lost John Stroud to fouls and Memphis State proved too much.
Following Auburn's 105-82 loss to Iona, coach Bob Davis was visibly upset.
"We took our Christmas vacation a day or two early," said Davis. "It was a total mental lapse. We weren't ready to play. The best thing we can do is put that behind us and come back ready for some good practices."
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