Billy D “not focused” on attendance


Florida is returning home for the first time in 21 days on Wednesday night to play Southeastern Louisiana.

A sparse crowd is expected at the O’Connell Center, given students are on break and that Southeastern Louisiana is far from a marquee opponent. Of the 347 teams in Division I, Southeastern Louisiana ranks 339 in RPI.

But even with marquee opponents Wisconsin and Marquette visiting Gainesville last month, the Gators have yet to sell out the O’Connell Center this season. Florida’s average paid attendance through its first five home games is 9,659.2 fans per game.

I asked Florida coach Billy Donovan about what he felt about UF’s fan support this season.

“I never really get involved in that stuff at all,” Donovan said. “Here’s my thing, I think the two most important commodities people have in their life is their time and their money. And for anybody to determine what they should do with their time and their money to me would be a great injustice. In today’s economic times, what it would cost to go to events or movies, or buy gas or things like that, I never worry about that stuff, that’s each individual person’s own decision of what they want to do with their time and with their money. And for me to sit there and say they should be at Florida basketball games or they should be doing this, I just think that’s totally wrong.”

Attendance has trended downward in both college football and college basketball in recent years due to factors such as more games being available on television, high-definition television and later start times due to national TV. Still, of the eight teams that reached the Elite Eight last season, Florida’s average paid attendance was the second-lowest, ahead of just Baylor.

When asked how those attendance numbers impacted recruiting, Donovan responded: “I think we play in a pretty good environment here. I don’t think there’s any questions about that. I think kids ultimately make a lot of decisions on style of play, relationship with the head coach, those kind of things, opportunity to grow and develop, get better, have a chance to play in the NBA. Listen, I think any person, player, coach or anything else, would love to see sellout after sellout after sellout. But I have no control over that. I don’t really focus on that.”

Other notes:

— Florida coach Billy Donovan was in Chicago on Monday to watch Sports Illustrated cover boy Jabari Parker play at Simeon High. The 6-foot-8 Parker, a smooth and skilled wing compared to LeBron James, has Florida is his final five with Duke, Michigan State, Stanford and BYU. Parker, the number two overall recruit in the Class of 2013, will announce his decision on Thursday on ESPNU.

— Here’s an interesting read from’s Andy Glockner on Florida senior Kenny Boynton and whether the Gators can win big with his decision-making at point guard.

— Florida freshman guard Michael Frazier played only three minutes Saturday night against Arizona due to the flu. Frazier sat out Friday’s practice. “We weren’t even sure if he was going to make the trip,” Donovan said. “He had a fever, a pretty significant fever.” Donovan said Frazier took part in the shoot-around Saturday but was lethargic. “He just wasn’t himself,” Donovan said. “And that was really probably the reason why I didn’t play him a lot.”

— Florida freshman guard Scottie Wilbekin played through a broken finger on his non-shooting hand against Arizona. He suffered the injury last Thursday in practice.













  1. Brockway, seriously, what is your issue with Gator basketball? From questioning our game with Georgetown on the Bataan to putting the NBA in front of BD to this puerile attempt at using attendance to undermine what Billy Donovan has done for this program, I have to ask: Did Coach hurt your feelings? Did he make you feel so small that you dedicate your blogs to playground payback? Son, Billy Donovan has more class and has done more for the Gainesville community and the young folks around his program than you could ever dream of undoing with your poison pen. If you want to vent your sadness or anger or you just feeling like spewing diatribes, attack Congress. Just remember, they have a thicker skin than even a Gator!

  2. I will say that it does seem with the few games scheduled the blogs have gone in less relevant directions. However, I can not understand why this team and schedule did not produce more seats in stands. If I were close enough I would be coming. We would love to see the team come to NW Florida.

    At the same time, the football team could not sell out the last couple of games either. I used to think that could only happen to FSU.

    As for the Arizona game, I believe close endings will be a problem for this team because I do not think they will have many. They did not perform well in the closing minute of either half, but they were impressive the rest of the time and I will say an important basket in that final minute came after the Arizona play took four steps. Where were the refs? Easy travaling call. However, Boynton makes the free throw and we are talking about a great win. Got to improve close game situations.

    Go Gators! Just keep playing hard and we will be there.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    I have been a gator fan my entire life and have been attending games with my father for as long as I can remember-he is a faculty member here at UF and I am currently finishing medical school here as well. While I was a bit surprised that some of our “big games” didn’t sell out, they were both great environments to watch basketball and were a lot of fun. Maybe you don’t realize this, as you get front row press passes to every game, but the price of tickets continues to go up. They are, in my opinion, quite expensive-now $20-25 a ticket-and most games have been blowouts which quite frankly isn’t the always the best to watch! Furthermore, the Marquette game was a 9pm tip which is honestly late for people that must work early in the morning or for people with children. The athletic department also declined to continue the program that allowed fans to purchase a package with a selective # of tickets that also seemed to be popular option.

    I am frankly also getting tired of the “negative” tone and vibe I am getting from a lot of your articles. As a beat writer, a lot of people, whether they like it or not, have access to your work and read it. I think we have so many positives and good stories with this team that this stuff about attendance, Billy Donovan “leaving,” etc is disheartening and frustrating. Please cover this team the way they deserve to be covered.

    • I think if you look at the previous six blog posts before NBA, they have been positive. I think Billy Donovan not ruling out the NBA someday is a legitimate subject to address, Will it likely happen? No, But I think it speaks to his ability as a coach that he would be considered, and Florida fans should feel fortunate for that. I think attendance also is a legitimate issue that deserves to be raised considering the success of this program compared to fan support. More people should be coming out, why aren’t they? That’s a subject I’ll be addressing in a story upcoming soon. Not being negative, just honest.

  4. I live in Atlanta, so attending games is not an option. I watch them all on TV or on line and support Coach Donovan and the Gators 100%. He is the best HC in any sport at UF in my lifetime.
    Coach Donovan, thank you for all you have done and continue to do for The University of Florida and the Gainesville community.
    Go Gators!

  5. Kevin – I have no problem with your blog posts FWIW.
    However, I’m getting tired of people (Dooley, you, local radio guys) who get paid to attend these games complaining about people not going.
    If I want to go with my wife and kid, it’s $75 just get in the door. $5 drinks, $4 hot dogs… were looking at an easy $100 for roughly 2 hours of entertainment. That’s more than I make in 2 hours.

    I love my Gators, always will. Born and raise in G’ville, but I put the majority of the blame on the UAA. Most of the locals have been priced out of the market, and if you want a full arena on a Tue night, you better draw from the area because people are driving 3 hours each way from St. Pete like they would on a Sat in the fall.

    On the other hand, I attend 15-25 baseball games because they are affordable.
    When’s the last time you or Dooley went to baseball game during the regular season?

    With that said, attendance will improve when the SEC schedule starts, despite how bad the conference is.

  6. Kevin calling a spade should be stated the fan support for the the product stinks.Its not hi def it’s FOOTBALL season other than that I agree with him.By the way no one informs GNation on Uf bball better than Kevin.Oh wait no one else hardly covers UF bball at all.Thank You for your hard work.Thank You Billy for your incredible job building this program into one of the best in the Nation.

  7. The mid-week games are always going to be a problem. I get off work in Jacksonville sometimes at 5 pm, sometimes at 6 pm, and it takes me an hour sometimes to get home. I have no chance of making a UF b-ball game in time during the week. I really think they should be giving the students as much tickets as possible, and they should be filling the place up since they are right on campus.

  8. By the way, doesn’t UF do really well attendance wise in basketball compared to most of the other teams in the SEC? I’m talking percentage wise. UF averages around 10,000 in a 12,000 arena. You look at Georgia and Auburn and LSU, etc and do they even come close? A few years ago I looked at the top attendances in the nation, UF was in the 20’s, but pretty much the only schools ahead of UF were schools that had an arena that held more than 12,000. I don’t know if you can just go by sheer number alone. If you do that, you’d say that UF is averaging more fans than Duke basketball.

  9. General admission tickets go for twelve bucks at the door- basically the same price as a movie. If LSU, Tennessee or Georgia had four final fours, two natties and Donovan as coach, they would be selling out every game. We have to face the fact that we have a mediocre and apathetic bandwagon fanbase.

  10. On a positive story note how about a series on our younger players in depth. Not just some silly stuff like their favorite songs, favorite player etc.

    Something about their HS careers, families, academics, family, interests outside of the normal, community activities etc. So we can get to know our Gators as people not just players.

    I would also like similar stuff about our assistants, strength coach and the other folks who make the program what it is, even down to the folks who make travel arrangements, take care of all the details that make the playing possible.

    I live in West Tn so going to home games is out, even some on the road would cost quite a bit and require a night in a hotel. I do watch on TV, the internet or go old school and listen on the internet.


  11. brr-bon is spot on. What is your deal Kev? Billy gave you the reason. It did not fit your narrative so you did not accept it. Your most glaring omission vis-a-vis poor attendance is the economy and the cost of going to the games. You can hide behind your pen all you want but you clearly have an axe to grind.

  12. A Mac & Phil…relax a bit here, no need to come off this way. I have been critical before, but to a point and not where I was offended. Since you brought it up, the game on the Bataan, Kevin gave us some history and insight of the ship. It was factual and relevent to the game and if it was a good idea or not. If some took the blinders off, there was a value in learning from what was written. Coach Donovan going to the NBA, he was interviewed by somebody else on the radio. How would it have looked if the interview happened on a national radio platform and the local paper didn’t act or report on it? Coach Donovan could have simply said that there was nothing to discuss in going to the NBA and than nothing written, why kill the messenger? And attendance, it is an issue and not because of money either, not buying it. I believe it is because our fan base exhausts themselves so much into football that when basketball starts, there is just not the same energy, passion, and meaning until the New Year when conference play begins.

  13. Back in the day they used to say football was for the Alumni and BB was for the students. Unfortunately, the students have been pushed out to improve the revenue stream so we have a full student section and a half full general admission section. If you value a full crowd I would allow more students to attend the game. No one can deny that all sporting events are controlled by the TV networks to maximize their ratings, not for the convenience of the fannies in the seats. We also have a problem of 23 million unemployed plus millions more working part time for less than a living wage. Hard to see tickets in that environment. I support illy and the entire Gator sports program but they need to consider the current economy when pricing tickets.

  14. WTF? FYI, there are positives about UF’s program and head coach. I don’t know if anyone has told you, but we have a good team this year and they’re playing on a regular basis, right now. That team has great players and I for one would love to hear about the players, what they think, how they train, or a million other topics that don’t negatively effect the program. Almost any story is legitimate in this day and age, that’s not an excuse for not finding a better story.