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Attendance arithmetic brought into question


The attendance figure released by East Carolina for its home football game with then-nationally-ranked Texas Christian was on the low side by several thousand, according to sources inside the university who are familiar with how the crowd estimates are tabulated.

According to an announcement made over the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium public address system just before halftime on Saturday and according to the attendance entry in the game's official box score and statistics, a crowd of 23,189 attended the game on a crisp but sunny day.

At least two ECU officials with access to information concerning ticket sales and procurement of tickets by students believe that number to be strikingly inaccurate based upon general criteria which East Carolina has used in the past to estimate attendance.

In retrospect, ECU head coach Steve Logan might agree with them. In his post-game remarks to the media after his team's 31-28 comeback win, Logan was particularly complimentary of the crowd and noted the fans' impact on the game's outcome.

"What our fans did out there today mattered big time," he said at the time, "and I'm very very thankful that they showed up and gave all they had."

A source, who declined to be identified, informed that approximately 16,000 season and complimentary tickets — which traditionally form the baseline starting point for crowd estimates — were issued, while about 8,000 student tickets were picked up for Saturday's game.

In addition, several thousand tickets, almost 8,000 according to one source, were printed for other reasons, including the need to meet the demand for walkup traffic on game day, though not all were sold or distributed.

Both officials agreed the actual attendance, based upon estimation methods which have previously been used, should have been pegged in the 28,000-29,000 range.

It's a discrepancy worth reconciling in light of the NCAA's emerging new emphasis on attendance as a key measure of whether conferences and individual schools meet the eligibility standards for Division I-A football membership.

Some of Conference USA's schools, notably UAB and Houston, are having severe difficulty meeting the attendance requirements, and schools which attract fans in larger numbers, ECU and Louisville in particular, help boost the league's overall attendance performance.

In an attempt to see if the reported attendance was a mistake, contacted ECU Assistant Athletics Director for Special Projects Lee Workman, who told that, to the best of his knowledge, the reported attendance was accurate.

Workman also said that the official attendance is based largely on estimation and that Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick has the final say on those figures. also spoke with ECU Associate Athletics Director Nick Floyd, who indicated that questions concerning the announced attendance should be addressed to Hamrick.

Hamrick, who was out of the office Monday, was unavailable for comment. According to his administrative assistant, Brenda Swain, Hamrick will not be back in the office this week.

Saturday's announced crowd was by far the lowest of the season. Heading into the day, the Pirates were averaging 35,610 fans per contest, second among Conference USA's 10 football-playing members. Louisville leads the league's attendance rankings with an average of 36,473.

02/23/2007 11:29:24 AM

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