Missouri State sports had interesting attendance numbers in the 2018-19 school year, with some sports seeing sharp rises while others continued declines.
The highest attended Missouri State sport was men’s basketball, in which Dana Ford led the team to a 16-16 record in his first season as head coach. Total attendance for home games was 77,255 over 15 games, which translates to an average of 5,150 attendees per game.
The Bears filled an average of 47% of the available seats at JQH Arena, which was top among MSU athletic programs.
In terms of the Missouri Valley Conference, the Bears ranked No. 4 in attendance in basketball, only 279 attendees per game less than Bradley, who ranked No. 1.
Compared to the 2017-18 season, men’s basketball saw a 13% rise in attendance from an average of 4,518 per game to 5,150 per game. That is part of a steady increase that has taken place over the past few years. Since the 2015-16 season, attendance has risen nearly 24%, from an average of 4,140 per game to 5,150.
The next highest attended sport was football, which had 44,432 total attendees over six games for an average of 7,405 attendees per game. The Bears won four of their first six games, and then lost the last five games of the season.
Football games saw an average of 44.8% of Plaster Stadium’s 16,500 seats filled.
Compared to the rest of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, MSU ranked No. 7 behind Illinois State, who averaged 1,855 more attendees than Missouri State per game. The top attended MVC team was North Dakota State, whose team won the FCS championship in 2018. According to NCAA figures, NDSU ranked No. 5 in average attendance across the 124 teams of the FCS.
Football has seen a steady decline in attendance in recent years. Last season saw an 11% drop from the 2017 season, and a 26% drop since 2015, a season where the Bears went 1-10.
Going to a game is more than just the game itself: it includes amenities. Assistant Director of Athletics, Communications Rick Kindhart said the university provides a top-notch experience for fans on gameday.
“We are always looking for ways to make the game day experience better for our students,” Kindhart said. “We have an unbelievable tailgating atmosphere and an exciting brand of football. The next step is keeping the party going inside the stadium from the opening kickoff to the end of the game.”
The tailgating is done through BearFest Village, a tailgate the university coordinates that takes place between Plaster Stadium and McDonald Arena.
“It is a great place for fans to gather before the game and get excited,” said Caroline Woods, coordinator of partnership services for Missouri State sports properties.
The tailgate allows outside vendors to come in and set up booths near the stadium. Beer and wine are allowed at the tailgate for those 21 or older. Spirits are banned, however.
After football, women’s basketball was the next highest attended sport, with 30,332 attendees over 13 home games, for an average of 2,333 per game.
The Lady Bears went 25-10, won the MVC tournament, as well as making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s tournament.
The Lady Bears were near the top of the Missouri Valley Conference in average attendance, second to Drake.
Attendance at Lady Bears games was very similar to the 2017-18 season, increasing by 1%. Compared to the 2015-16 season, when the team went 24-10 and won the Missouri Valley Conference Championship, there was a 31% decrease in attendance.
Overall, attendance for football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball all exceeded NCAA averages for their respective classifications.
Significantly less than the top three sports, MSU baseball and volleyball were next highest, respectively.
Baseball had 12,771 attendees over 20 games, for an average of 638 per game.
Volleyball had 9,394 attendees over 12 games, for an average of 783 per game.
Men’s soccer had an average of 443 per game. The team ranked No. 3 among university sports in average percentage of seats filled, filling an average of 29.5% of the seats and Betty and Bobby Allison South Stadium.
Softball and women’s soccer fill out the final numbers, respectively. Softball had an average of 258 attendees per game. Women’s soccer averaged 196 attendees per game.