It wasn’t a huge a surprise that a huge chunk of the crowd of 17,191 that came to see the Memphis men play Cincinnati Saturday morning left FedEx Forum before Tigers women played No. 1 UConn immediately following.
The announced crowd for the women’s game was 6,783. But considering Memphis was averaging 755 for home games this season it was a testimony to UConn’s drawing power.
“We haven’t had a chance to play in a new venue in a very long time,” Geno Auriemma said. “We’ll be playing in places this season [in the American] where the fans haven’t seen us in awhile or ever. Maybe we made some news fans. And maybe Memphis made some new fans.”
The last time they were billed as the tail end of a double-header with a men’s game was in January 2011 at Madison Square Garden. UConn’s game against St. John’s followed the Red Storm men’s game against Syracuse. And once the men’s game ended, the vast majority of the Garden crowd left on a snowy night.
Auriemma said he didn’t want it team focused on how many fans would stay to watch it. He wanted them to just concentrate on the task. And they did that.
The chance to UConn ever staging a home double-header for its men and women is virtually non-existent.
“I am sure there is some aspect to it that is appealing on some level I just don’t see it happening and I don’t think there is a need for it, ” Auriemma said. “There is a men’s crowd, there is a women’s crowd and then there is a middle group that goes to both games. By playing a doubleheader, a lot of people that would be at a game would be shut out and in today’s day and age with what you are trying to do financially, I can’t ever see it happening.”
Unlike most women’s programs in the nation, UConn can afford to run financially independent of the men because of the large fan base it has. The women’s team also does not need the type of artificial exposure program’s like St. John’s and Memphis hoped to garner for their women’s teams, which operate in comparative quiet compared to their men.