When UConn women’s basketball defeated Tulane on Saturday at Gampel Pavilion, it marked the 200th sellout in program history. While that certainly isn’t an unfamiliar sight, head coach Geno Auriemma credits than fans for still showing up in droves to see a team the Huskies typically beat by over 40 points in Storrs.
“For them to come out here and to not only come to the game, pretty much knowing we’re going to win and then staying to the end of the game, this makes no sense,” he said. “But our fans are unique from fans around the country.”
With the team stuck in the American Athletic Conference — where they have yet to lose a game in five seasons — competitiveness isn’t a factor when it comes to attendance.
“It’s a proven fact that if we play games at an accessible time, our fans will come out. Playing games in the afternoon on the weekends is the winning ticket,” Auriemma said. “It’s beyond me why we don’t have more of those. There should never be a Saturday night game ever again. Every game should be Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I’m a big proponent of that.”
He also credited fans with coming to the game despite the difficulties of getting to campus as well as high parking fees.
“I’m pissed off it cost $12 to park in the garage,” he said. “Whoever's charging $12 for these people to park in the garage should be ashamed of themselves. It’s disgraceful.”
In turn, he feels a duty to put the best product on the court so the fans feel their trip was worthwhile.
“I remind my players all the time of their obligation to the fans,” Auriemma said. “That when people watch you play, you have an obligation to make sure that they didn’t just pay to see something they could’ve gone down to the playground to watch somebody do.”
That exact sentiment came out after the Tulsa game when Auriemma fumed over his team’s play.
“If I could have it my way? We would give every person at the game tonight their money back,” he said after the 18-point victory. “That was the most disgraceful effort I’ve seen at Connecticut in the 32 years I’ve been here.”
But one “bad” game couldn’t keep the fans away for long. And when they show up, they don’t just sit and watch. They help make Gampel one of the most raucous atmospheres in college basketball.
“I think one of the things about Gampel is you really notice how many people are there and when it’s really filled and everyone feels like the crowd is right on top of you and it’s super loud,” Katie Lou Samuelson said.
The 10,167-seat arena has seen plenty in its 27-year history and holds a special place in Auriemma’s heart.
“We take great pride at playing here in this building,” he said. “This building means a lot to us over the years.”