Ball State students yell into the camera as the men's basketball team hosts Central Michigan, Jan. 16 at John E. Worthen Arena. Ball State defeated Central Michigan, 76-82. Grace Hollars, DN File
Worthen Arena seems louder this season, here's why
As the midway point of conference play draws near, one thing has become increasingly obvious — it's hard to win on the road in the MAC.
Only three Mid-American Conference teams — Buffalo (3-0), Miami (2-1) and Toledo (3-1) — have winning road records when playing conference opponents. MAC schools have a combined 14-29 record when traveling to another opponent in the conference this year.
At home, however, it's a much different story. This season, MAC teams are winning nearly 80 percent of the time (93-25) when playing on their home court.
Year-by-year attendance averages
*Subject to change
Inside Worthen Arena, Ball State men's basketball is 9-1, suffering a single loss to Buffalo who remains the only team unbeaten in conference play. One of the contributing factors to that success has been the number of fans, both students and community members, who have been coming out to games.
This season, the men's basketball team is averaging 3,382 attendees per game, good for third in the MAC. That number is up from 3,121 last season and 2,764 from the 2015-16 campaign. While it's nowhere near sell-out games of 90s or attendance numbers that exceeded 5,000 fans a game 10-plus years ago, it's a clear indicator of the growing success of the men's team over the past couple of seasons.
"We feel good, but we're not satisfied," Shawn Sullivan, associate athletics director of marketing and fan engagement, said.
According to Sullivan, season ticket sales are up 11 percent from last season and up 16 percent from two years ago. He also said the number of students coming out to the games has helped boost the numbers as well. While the numbers have been improving, Sullivan said there might be another reason that Worthen looks and sounds louder this season compared to years past.
"Potentially one of the reasons for that is we've gone to a no general admissions seating map," Sullivan said. "In the past, particularly for men's basketball games, fans who would come in and buy a general admission seat would sit anywhere. Now, when you come in and buy a ticket, we're giving you the best available, which means we're pushing people closer to the court."
Pushing fans closer makes every play seem that much more momentous like this stream of dunks from Jeremie Tyler and Tahjai Teague.
Ball State athletics director Mark Sandy said exciting plays, beating then-ranked No. 9 Notre Dame and Valparaiso on last second shots and the nine game win streak have all helped keep fans coming back.
"I think all of that together is why people are excited about the basketball team," Sandy said. "We play an entertaining style of basketball so they really like coming out to watch the guys."
It's hard to argue that fan support hasn't helped Ball State men's basketball, but the recent success of the team has also helped increase the fan base. Before back-to-back 20-plus win seasons, Ball State had lost an average of nearly 1,000 fans per game spanning from 2011 to 2015.
Both Sullivan and Sandy expect fan attendance to rise over the next few home games with the addition of more promotions and the soon-to-be-announced "Social Media Night," which has drawn in some of the largest home crowds over the past few seasons.