Attendance for East Carolina football and basketball games were focal points during Thursday’s ECU Board of Trustees Athletics and Advancement Committee meeting, leading to athletics director Jon Gilbert saying after the meeting that he hopes to see ECU average 40,000 or more in attendance at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium next football season.
ECU is at an average of 34,165 for this year, with one home game remaining Nov. 30 versus Tulsa. That is higher than last year’s average attendance of 32,908, but Gilbert is aiming for 40,000 for 2020 for what will be coach Mike Houston’s second season with the Pirates.
“We need to sell more tickets, and certainly you could see from this year that we trended in the right direction,” Gilbert said. “We need to continue the momentum.”
ECU didn’t completely sell out TowneBank Tower this year in terms of season sales, falling about 100 short in the trade club level. Those unclaimed seats were sold as single-game opportunities, which Gilbert said did lead to the tower being completely sold out for at least one game.
“Obviously we would like for it to be completely sold,” he said. “I think with a lot of the individuals who we sold single-game tickets to, they saw what an experience it was, so I am hopeful that we’ll continue to get more people buying those.”
Gilbert and Pirate Club executive director Phillip Wood added during the meeting that football season ticket renewals for next season will begin prior to Christmas, to initiate payment plans beginning earlier than in previous years.
ECU’s basketball game last Saturday in Minges Coliseum served as the Pirates’ most revenue in single-game tickets since hosting Wake Forest in Minges in 2008.
The Pirates played Liberty, an NCAA tournament first-round winner from last season, and lost 77-57. Attendance was 4,527.
“I was pleased that we had back-to-back really good crowds versus Liberty and Virginia Military Institute (on Nov. 5),” Gilbert said. “Nobody is happy with where our record is (1-3), most notably our players and coaches, but I do see how quickly they are developing and I see that as a positive. Growth takes a little bit of time, and when you have that type of roster change, it takes time.”
Gilbert said the easiest example to understand in the developing model by the NCAA for student-athletes to receive compensation for their name, image and likeness is that the ECU and a star student-athlete could jointly benefit from sales of that athlete’s replica jersey at a campus store.
“We are not there yet, but I do think that based on the working groups the NCAA has put together, we clearly are trending in that direction,” he said. “I will keep the board abreast once we really know what is going to happen. There are conflicting discussions about where that is headed.”
Gilbert was then asked by a board member if the eventual structure will greatly benefit high-profile teams in major conferences.
“It will continue that the bigger, more prosperous schools will continue to prosper, but it can create some advantages for other schools as well,” Gilbert responded.