Pac-12 Tournament: Embarrassing Los Angeles Attendance Figures Propel Vegas


The horse was killed a long, long time ago. We know the Pac-12 is down. USC fielded a team for much of the year that would struggle in intermurals, and the Bruins have been more inconsistent than stories about Reeves Nelson. The conference once lauded as a basketball conference in the days of Lute Olsen, Mark Madsen and Baron Davis is now, well, a conference waiting for some affection?

Since Larry Scott became the conference’s face in 2009, the league has taken tremendous strides at having a national foot print. He’s taken coaches to New York and Bristol twice for Media Day and he’s turned a conference that used to have its nose so deep in textbooks, into a league that’s soon to be swimming in cash with television revenue. But while Scott’s expanded the league and brought media attention to the conference, attention from the Los Angeles fans is seemingly at an all-time low.

At a quarter to five Wednesday afternoon, the parking lots around Staples Center were barren and parking attendants couldn’t be seen waving their fluorescent wands down Figueroa like they normally do. Yet despite the crickets outside, UCLA was beating USC late in the second half of their third meeting of year, in their third venue. The game recorded a gate of just 5,973, less than a third of the capacity of Staples Center. Sure, it was a 2:30pm tip-off on a Wednesday afternoon, but the lack of a crowd wasn’t limited to just the USC-UCLA game, and according to the Seattle Times, has forced the tournament to move to Las Vegas in 2013.

What exactly was the problem? The Big East Tournament is a huge event at Madison Square Garden, yet Staples Center can’t even get six thousand people to watch a USC-UCLA game, regardless of the teams’ records or the time of the game? It’s an embarrassment to the conference, the NCAA and the sports fans of Los Angeles who actually care about the city’s perception. No matter how hard the city tries to shake the fair weather label, it continues to be true. The fact that Los Angeles, the second biggest market in the country, lost the Pac-12 Conference Tournament to a city that has a tainted sports image and a minor league team named the 51s, is shameful.

When fans stopped going to Dodger Stadium last summer, people equated it to the Dodgers’ ownership fiasco. When the Kings struggle to fill Staples Center against teams like the Florida Panthers or the Nashville Predators, it’s because they’re not marquee teams. People didn’t go to see Clipper games before Blake Griffin because of Donald Sterling. UCLA can’t draw at the Rose Bowl because it’s too far from Westwood. The excuses never end, and never come close to legitimacy.

Los Angeles is lazy and has its own attention deficit disorder. Say what you will, but if the Lakers had five or six seasons without making the playoffs, they’d stop selling tickets too. USC’s attendance was down 40% at times in 2011, compared to the height of the Pete Carroll era. LA is a city that only wants to buy-in if entertainment is guaranteed and everything turns out rosy. It’s embarrassing and it’s sad, but it’s our city.