Frank Martin: 'That's insulting to me!'
The Final Four effect on the South Carolina men’s basketball program will be seen this season at Colonial Life Arena.
USC marketing director Eric Nichols told The State on Thursday over 8,700 season tickets have been sold, with ample time still remaining until the Nov. 13 home opener against Western Michigan.
“That number changes significantly by the hour,” Nichols said Thursday afternoon. “One of the big thresholds that was a big deal to us was selling out the lower bowl in season tickets, which we have done.”
South Carolina in 2016-17 finished 21st nationally – and fourth in the SEC – in attendance, averaging a school-record 13,395 fans at CLA. That included 8,340 season ticket holders. The fact that number has already been passed can be attributed to the Gamecocks’ Final Four run, Nichols said.
“We probably sold 500 to 700 new season tickets before the summer because we were capitalizing on the emotion, the momentum that swept up South Carolina,” Nichols said. “That’s where we made the biggest changes.”
USC coach Frank Martin hasn’t been shy this preseason in emphasizing the program’s need to jump on what happened last spring. The Gamecocks will raise their first Final Four banner in school history before the Western Michigan game.
Nichols said season ticket sales are up 52 percent since Martin’s arrival from Kansas State six years ago.
“We've finally created a home court advantage environment,” Martin said last week. “We need to keep growing it, not take it for granted. We need our students, we need everyone in there. We set a school record for attendance last year. We don't need to take that for granted. We need to realize what an impact that had on our basketball program and grow it, make it stronger.
“Fans aren't going to accept me coming in here going 'Ahhh, we went to the first round of the NCAA Tournament, right?' They're going to expect us to continue to grow and build and go play on Monday (national championship), not just Saturday (national semifinal round). I'm OK with that.
“But that means our fans need to be on board with our continued growth and all that stuff. It all goes hand in hand. And averaging 13 (thousand), whatever we had last year, that was great for last year. Well, we need more this year.”
Martin’s message doesn’t get lost in the USC ticket office.
“If you’ve met or seen Frank, you know he can be motivating,” Nichols said. “And he’s motivating our entire staff as well. We’re not satisfied. We won’t stop until it’s full for every game. Even then, we’re going to keep working to get it full the following year.”