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"[A]n unmitigated disaster for our basketball program"?

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With RBC Center attendance a hot topic of late, the N&O caught up with former athletics director Les Robinson as well as new BFF and former Raleigh mayor Tom Fetzer to discuss the issue.

According to Fetzer, Sendek predicted "an unmitigated disaster for our basketball program if you get us out there. Please. And don't build this thing bigger than 17,500 or we won't be able to fill it."

Efforts to reach Sendek for comment were unsuccessful, but Robinson confirmed that he and Sendek expressed their concerns at time.

"I told some people - so did Herb, I think - that playing in a place like Reynolds is worth five points a game, more than five in some of the tougher games probably," Robinson said. "It's the same at Duke. The home advantage changes some when you go to a big, big building. But there just weren't any realistic options at the time. Renovating Reynolds would have cost an absolute fortune, and there still wouldn't have been a way to add parking."

Yes, the off-campus location is a problem to an extent.  I know I went to fewer basketball games than I wanted to my freshman year because I wasn't allowed to have a car on campus and finding transportation to the arena was difficult and discouraging.  But for alumni--the bulk of the fan base--making the drive either way, what's the difference?  None that I can see.

The method by which tickets are assigned probably could use some changes. And the building is too big, no doubt.  I'd say about 4,000 seats too big.  I'm not sure we'll ever fill it on a regular basis, barring a step forward by the program into a top-10 mainstay.

But..."unmitigated disaster"?  Strong words based on the assumption that the Reynolds atmosphere is worth five points a game, which is almost certainly not true.

Ken Pomeroy looked at the home court advantage a while back and suggested that it is the baseline factors that affect every road team everywhere--unfamiliar surroundings, a break in normal routine--that explain the bulk of teams' road struggles.  Which is not to say that the size or intensity of the home crowd doesn't matter, just that it's probably not as significant an influence as it seems.  

At any rate, the crux of the matter is this, noted by Robinson at the end of the article:

"Once State gets it going again, attendance will not be a issue," Robinson said. "There probably won't be enough seats then. Winning is the key to attendance. That'll always be the way to fill the seats."

I've seen enough important games at the RBC Center to feel comfortable with this: if the wins come, the atmosphere will take care of itself.