Why UCLA’s Upset of 2nd-Seeded BYU Is Good for Men’s Volleyball

  0 Braden Keith | May 04th, 2018 | Big West, College - Men's Indoor, MPSF, News

When 3rd-seeded UCLA knocked off 2nd-seeded BYU in the semi-finals of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Division I/II Volleyball Championship on Thursday evening, it wasn’t an earth-shattering result. The two teams shared the wins during the regular season, with BYU winning twice and UCLA winning once (via a 3-0 sweep), so either side had proven it was capable of a win.

4,249 fans were in attendance for that match, however, and that highlights why the win by UCLA will provide a big boost to men’s volleyball.

This year is the 49th version of the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship. In the prior 48 editions, the home team has played in the championship game 18 times (a higher ratio than most NCAA sports). In the 17 of those occasions where the attendance is known, the average home attendance has been around 6,882 fans.

In the other 30 championships, 28 of which have known attendances, the average was about 2000 fans lower – 4,887.

Having a home-team in the game makes a significant impact to the tune of nearly 41%, historically. While UCLA, the most frequent host with 15 opportunities (and holder of the most titles with 19) has turned out big crowds for matches where the home team is playing. The area bucks-the-trend in a way as the country’s premier hotbed for men’s volleyball. That means they can draw big crowds even without UCLA playing, in part because other nearby schools are frequent championship participants (Long Beach State, USC, Pepperdine, UC Irvine), and in part because there’s a big local demand. In UCLA-hosted championship games, the average attendance for the 9 known occasions where the Bruins participated is 7,367, while the average attendance for the 4 times the Bruins hosted and didn’t play is still 6,300.

That makes Saturday’s final almost a perfect-storm that could break the 10,000-fan mark for the first time in championship history. The closest the game has ever come was in 1984, when UCLA beat Pepperdine at home and 9,839 fans were in attendance. In 1998, UCLA beat Pepperdine in volleyball-mad Hawaii, which drew nearly as many: 9822 fans. 2012 at USC (between UC Irvine and USC) also drew over 9,000 fans, at 9,612.

The championship match had two poor attendance showings in 2015 (2,419) and 2016 (2,745) when the tournament was hosted by Stanford and Penn State, respectively, which rank as the worst and 3rd-worst attendances in the history of the championship game. But Ohio State playing in front of a home crowd last year for a 2nd-straight title reinvigorated the event, drawing 8,205 fans – the best showing in 5 years, and best-ever turnout for a match held outside of the western United States.

Building off that momentum, and playing in UCLA’s Pauley Pavillion which has a capacity of 13,800, between two Southern California teams, separated by only 45 minutes on the 405, could push through the magic barrier and break all attendance records. And that, with a burgeoning men’s professional volleyball league in the U.S. for the first time in decades, would be a significant push forward for the sport.

See All-Time Championship Match Attendances:

Note: we didn’t include indications where championships were vacated, because its not relevant for this specific analysis.

Year Host Champion Runner-Up Match Attendance Host Team Played?
1972 Ball State UCLA San Diego State NA NO
1991 Hawaii Long Beach State USC NA NO
1984 UCLA UCLA Pepperdine 9839 YES
1998 Hawaii UCLA Pepperdine 9822 NO
2012 USC UC Irvine USC 9612 YES
2017 Ohio State Ohio State BYU 8205 YES
1999 UCLA BYU Long Beach State 8026 NO
1994 Fort Wayne Penn State UCLA 7908 NO
1973 San Diego State San Diego State Long Beach State 7762 YES
1996 UCLA UCLA Hawaii 7688 YES
1992 Ball State Pepperdine Stanford 7391 NO
1989 UCLA UCLA Stanford 7244 YES
2005 UCLA Pepperdine UCLA 6853 YES
2010 Stanford Stanford Penn State 6530 YES
1985 UCLA Pepperdine USC 6378 NO
2013 UCLA UC Irvine BYU 6295 NO
1988 Fort Wayne USC UCSB 6207 NO
1982 Penn State UCLA Penn State 5641 YES
1990 George Mason USC Long Beach State 5511 NO
2006 Penn State UCLA Penn State 5453 YES
2002 Penn State Hawaii Pepperdine 5357 NO
1981 UCSB UCLA USC 5000 NO
2001 Long Beach State BYU UCLA 4807 NO
1978 Ohio State Pepperdine UCLA 4756 NO
2007 Ohio State UC Irvine Fort Wayne 4755 NO
2008 UC Irvine Penn State Pepperdine 4531 NO
1977 UCLA USC Ohio State 4500 NO
2014 Loyola Chicago Loyola Chicago Stanford 4485 YES
1995 Springfield, Mass. UCLA Penn State 4376 NO
2003 Long Beach State Lewis BYU 4317 NO
1976 Ball State UCLA Pepperdine 4140 NO
2004 Hawaii BYU Long Beach State 4105 NO
1997 Ohio State Stanford UCLA 3798 NO
2011 Penn State Ohio State UCSB 3683 NO
1983 Ohio State UCLA Pepperdine 3638 NO
1986 Penn State Pepperdine USC 3610 NO
1970 UCLA UCLA Long Beach State 3143 YES
2009 BYU UC Irvine USC 3015 NO
1980 Ball State USC UCLA 3000 NO
2016 Penn State Ohio State BYU 2745 NO
2000 Fort Wayne UCLA Ohio State 2738 NO
2015 Stanford Loyola Chicago Lewis 2419 NO
2018 UCLA



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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of VolleyMob.com. Braden's first foray into sports journalism came in 2010, when he launched a swimming website called The Swimmers' Circle. Two years later, he joined SwimSwam.com as a co-founder. Long huge fans of volleyball, when Braden and the SwimSwam partners sought an opportunity to …

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