Coogs need more support on homefront
The dim lights and bowl shape of Hofheinz Pavilion can make for a tough place to play a basketball game for opposing teams.
That is, if anyone decides to show up.
Four Final Four banners, and the retired jerseys of Elvin Hayes, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Young hang as a reminder that UH was once at the summit of college basketball with a rabid and loyal following.
“This is a special place,” head coach James Dickey said. “It has a lot of tradition, a lot of history. You have to win home games, so you get people excited, and get them in the stands.
“I’ve been here before when it’s been packed — it’s a loud and very intimidating place. That’s our goal and our administration’s to fill this place up.”
In recent years, fans have not been overly eager to embrace a hostile atmosphere, if any effort is made at all.
An alteration in 1998 cut the capacity from roughly 10,600, so at full capacity Hofheinz holds about 8,900.
The largest post-renovation crowd was 8,918 when UH hosted the No. 1-ranked Memphis in 2008.
Through 10 games this season, the average is at approximately 2,850 fans per game — less than half of the available seating.
Looking at the makeup of the crowd, student fans are in the minority and are drastically outnumbered by alumni.
When the Cougars played SHSU and UTSA, their supporters felt right at home by participating in school songs with no extra noise to drown them out.
A more embarrassing moment came in the third home contest when bench players on Nicholls State were chanting “defense” to pump up their teammates. This is regular for players to do, but the echoing of the Colonel’s bench was at a higher volume than any ovation for a UH basket.
Tide could be turning
The Cougars’ Jan. 8 win over UCF was a small step in the right direction, and a glimmer of what the atmosphere at Hofheinz could be.
The Cougars displayed a gutsy performance, beating a ranked opponent. The crowd of 3,000-plus was raucous and unfriendly to the Knights.
After the win, Dickey recognized the fan’s input, and felt they also deserved some congratulating for their role. He sent his players to walk around the arena to high five fans.
Even without fanfare, the Cougars are finding success at the Hof, going 9-1 thus far.
The Cougars have just begun their conference schedule, and it is early enough in the season that crowd noise can make a significant difference.
Dickey said that consistency and a culture of winning is what will help fill the rows of empty seats, but fans should do him one better.
The small legion of supporters who have shown up so far have provided a small but loyal base. If young and energetic fans can begin piling in, Hofheinz can reclaim its reputation as a place other teams hate to play at.