By Mike White | Thursday, May 27, 2010, 8:35 a.m.
Notes and thoughts from the PIAA Board of Control meetings that started last night and will run through today.
Ticket revenue is down in just about all PIAA sports over the past few years. That fact was brought out by PIAA beancounters at last night's meeting.
But the PIAA is most concerned about what's happening in basketball, where ticket revenues are down drastically the past few seasons, especially the 2009-10 season. Ticket revenue this past season was off $400,000 from recent years. Instead of revenues of around $1.1 million, revenues were around $700,000.
A few Board of Control members gave opinions on why the drop in basketball revenues. One member thought having the championship games at Penn State hurts attendance. Another person thought economy was a primary reason.
But to me, there are two simple reaspons why basketball attendance is down for PIAA playoffs. One is the addition of Philadelphia Public League and Catholic League schools. The other is the elimination of true East-West brackets.
The Public League schools have been in the PIAA since 2004 and Catholic League since 2008. To be blunt, the Philadelphia Public League schools have pretty much no fan following in the state playoffs. And some of those teams are going far in the tournament, which is killing ticket sales. Want an example? Bob Lombardi, Associated Executive Director of the PIAA, pointed out how a few years ago a team from one Phiadelphia school had made it to a championship, and that school had a ticket presale of $17. SEVENTEEN! That's ridiculous.
"Now I don't know how that happens when tickets were $8 and $4," Lombardi said with a laugh. "But that gives you an idea of what we're dealing with sometimes."
It's not uncommon for a Philadelphia Public League school to have less than 100 fans for a state basketball championship. Compare that with some other schools that might bring more than 1,000 fans. Now you know why ticket revenues are down.
The other reason is the abolishment of the true East-West brackets. In some classifications, schools from the East play through the West bracket and this has also hurt attendance. How? Well, consider this: What do you think attendance will be when a Pittsburgh area team plays a Philadelphia area team on a Tuesday night in Shippensburg? But that's what happens without a true "East-West" bracket.
Want an example? Let's just look at this past season. The North Allegheny boys played Plymouth-Whitemarsh (Philadelphia area) in a state semifinal game on a Wednesday night at Chambersburg High School. Chambersburg is about three hours from North Allegheny and a few hours from Philadelphia also. Now how well do you think that game will draw?
In the past with true East-West brackets, the PIAA semifinal in the west involved true "western" teams and would be only, at most, a two-hour drive. In some cases, the game would be only a half-hour away.
In summary, attendance in basketball isn't going to change because the Philadelphia Public teams will continue to advance far in the playoffs. And right now, the PIAA is resisting pleas to go back to true East-West brackets.
* The PIAA basketball steering committee will meet June 23 and the main two subjects on the agenda will be true "East-West" brackets and also separate playoffs for private and parochial schools. Steering committees make recommendations to the PIAA Board of Control.
We'll have more later from today's meetings.