Women’s college basketball has a harder time attracting an audience than popular sports like football. For several decades, the University of Tennessee Lady Vols was a rare exception. A powerhouse D1 basketball program, they dominated on the court under their iconic coach Pat Summitt, winning eight national titles and enjoying incredible fan support at the turnstiles. The Lady Vols are also the only team to appear in all 36 NCAA Tournaments to date.
Much of the credit for the success of the Lady Vols goes to the late Pat Summitt, who inspired, motivated and coached the team on and off the court for 38 years. Shortly after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, she stepped down as the winningest D1 coach in NCAA history with an incredible 1,098 victories.
While remaining among the attendance leaders for women’s basketball, fan support at Lady Vols games began to slip. The strong alumni season ticket base that Coach Summitt had helped to grow was gradually aging out. Since her retirement, Tennessee’s attendance has decreased every year except one since the 2007-08 season when the Lady Vols drew an average of 15,796 fans per game. At the same time, attendance at Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball home games has been following a similar trend for the past decade.