The Washington Times - April 27, 2011, 11:33AM

The NCAA released attendance data for college basketball on Tuesday, and there was quietly a very interesting development for Maryland.

For the first time since Comcast Center opened, the Terrapins did not finish in the top 10 in average home attendance. Maryland was 14th, a year after ranking seventh.

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Here’s the raw data. In 2009-10, Maryland averaged 16,792 for 16 home dates. This past season, the Terps checked in at 14,910 in 18 home dates. That’s a decline of 11.2 percent.

(The flip side, of course, is Maryland had a down year on the court and lost more than 10 percent of its attendance and still ranked comfortably in the top 20 nationally in drawing fans).

There’s a number of factors that would influence that, including but not limited to:

* Competitiveness. Maryland did not participate in a postseason tournament for the first time since 1993. Winning fills the seats, and only five of the team’s eight conference games were announced sellouts.

* Economy. It would be unfair not to mention fans being cash-strapped and also dealing with periodic price hikes over the years for tickets. To go all ECON 201, that’s going to shift the demand curve a bit. Season tickets (or an occasional trip to College Park) are discretionary spending, not a grocery store bill or a rent payment, and this is not an issue exclusive to Maryland.

* Nonconference home schedule. Of the 10 nonconference opponents to visit Comcast Center, only College of Charleston (26-11) finished with a winning record. Only two – Charleston at 72 and North Florida at 148 – had top-200 RPIs. It was logical for Maryland to schedule highly winnable games after losing three senior starters from the previous season. But it’s also logical for fans to shrug at games against Elon (day after Thanksgiving), NJIT (three days before Christmas) and Colgate (first week of January).

As for a wide-ranging look, here is where Maryland, Georgetown, George Mason, George Washington and members of their respective conferences ranked in home attendance (the NCAA ranks the top 100):

ACC

4. North Carolina (19,144)
14. Maryland (14,910)
19. N.C. State (13,779)
43. Virginia (10,156)
47. Florida State (9,327)
48. Duke (9,314)
49. Wake Forest (9,199)
52. Virginia Tech (8,932)
59. Clemson (8,289)
85. Georgia Tech (6,095)
NR Boston College (5,324)
NR Miami (4,763)

BIG EAST

2. Syracuse (22,312)
3. Louisville (21,832)
11. Marquette (15,586)
25. Georgetown (12,675)
32. Connecticut (11,569)
33. West Virginia (11,529)
36. Pittsburgh (10,843)
38. Villanova (10,511)
57. St. John’s (8,431)
62. Seton Hall (7,937)
64. Notre Dame (7,785)
67. DePaul (7,676)
71. Cincinnati (7,344)
76. Providence (7,043)
97. Rutgers (5,602)
NR South Florida (4,230)

CAA

66. Old Dominion (7,745)
80. Virginia Commonwealth (6,645)
91. George Mason (5,196)
NR UNC Wilmington (3,751)
NR James Madison (3,721)
NR Hofstra (3,073)
NR Delaware (2,522)
NR William and Mary (2,287)
NR Northeastern (2,281)
NR Drexel (2,040)
NR Towson (1,480)
NR Georgia State (915)

ATLANTIC 10

27. Dayton (12,567)
44. Xavier (10,098)
84. Saint Louis (6,299)
87. Charlotte (6,069)
89. Richmond (5,959)
90. Temple (5,925)
NR Rhode Island (4,537)
NR Saint Joseph’s (4,405)
NR Duquesne (3,899)
NR St. Bonaventure (3,647)
NR Massachusetts (3,300)
NR La Salle (2,213)
NR Fordham (1,938)
NR George Washington (1,788)

Patrick Stevens