Four years and three days ago, Carver-Hawkeye Arena amplified the worst basketball-related sound in a men's gym.
On Jan. 12, 2010, Iowa played host to Tennessee State in an oddly scheduled non-conference event sandwiched among the Hawkeyes' Big Ten schedule. The echo of a bouncing ball ricocheted off the empty seats as only 2,521 fans showed up for that game. It was the lowest-recorded actual attendance at Carver, and Iowa pulled out the win with a late run 67-62.
In 2010, Iowa averaged a record-low 9,550 fans at Carver but even worse barely 5,000 fans actually attended each game. Only 4,211 public season tickets were sold and students were given free admission to a pair of games. The largest crowd was the Big Ten opener against Purdue (12,468).
Now fast forward four years. Iowa announced Tuesday that its remaining seven games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena are sold out. That will give Iowa 11 sellouts a 12-year high. Iowa's average attendance will lock at 14,975 this year, also the best since 2001-02. Only twice did Iowa sell fewer than 14,000 tickets to a game this year (Maryland-Eastern Shore, Fairleigh Dickinson). And the attendance of those were 13,374 and 13,501, respectively. Nearly two-thirds of Iowa's games were sold out this year.
Based on last year's NCAA numbers, Iowa would rank 18th nationally in attendance. In 2009-10, Iowa ranked 48th and sold $1.9 million in tickets. This year, Iowa budgeted $3.2 million in ticket sales and likely will soar past that number.
“When Fran was hired, he and I talked a great deal about how to rebuild Hawkeye Basketball," Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said. "We’re still a long way from his and my ultimate goals, but filling Carver-Hawkeye Arena most nights was definitely on the list.
“Hawkeye fans have been terrific in supporting our players and the style of play under Coach McCaffery. Our current win streak is a credit to the coaches, student-athletes, and our fans.”
The Hawkeyes have won 19 straight home games dating to a three-point defeat against Michigan State last year. In 2009-10, Iowa won two straight home games only once, and that was by five points to Tennessee State (which finished 9-23) and Penn State (last place in the Big Ten, 11-20 overall) by three points. The Hawkeyes finished the year with a school-record 22 losses, and Coach Todd Lickliter was fired after three seasons.
Perhaps the most embarrassing home moment in 2010 was on Feb. 3 when about 200 members of Illinois' vaunted Orange Krush fan group crashed the north baseline seats under the basket. They purchased their tickets through an Iowa donor located in the Quad Cities and wore Iowa T-shirts until tip-off. Then the Orange Krush stripped off their Hawkeye T-shirts and proudly displayed their bright-orange Illinois attire.
Coincidentally, four years later, Iowa fans in Chicago have a bus scheduled to attend the Iowa-Illinois game Feb. 1 in Champaign. Iowa (14-3) is ranked 14th by the Associated Press and 16th in the latest coaches' poll. Any way you look at it, that's quite a revival.