It is pretty much agreed that two’s company and three’s a crowd, but what constitutes "attendance?"
Is it, as Webster’s New World Dictionary has it, "… the persons or number of persons attending …"
Or, is it the number of tickets distributed (but not necessarily used) for an event?
We bring this up because the operative definition at University of Hawaii men’s basketball games recently has become the latter.
For example, in Thursday night’s loss to Idaho, UH listed 5,605, on the official box score under "attendance," which it confirmed was tickets distributed — not bodies in the house — per the preference of head coach Gib Arnold.
In absence of a turnstile figure that we felt more accurately portrayed the number of people actually attending, your favorite newspaper elected to go with the estimate of "about 4,000."
A UH spokesman said that Arnold prefers the higher number so that prospective recruits will gain a more positive perception of the Rainbow Warriors’ following.
For its other sports UH announces both turnstile and tickets distributed figures, which is what they did for men’s basketball until late last month.
Apparently, according to UH folks, a reference to an attendance of 3,140 for the Dec. 11 men’s basketball game with Hawaii Pacific University in an online account prompted a prospective recruit to "call" the coach on the strength of UH’s following that night.
Had the current Rainbow Warriors formula been in place, UH would have listed the attendance solely as 5,507, which it listed as the tickets distributed figure. That’s a considerable discrepancy and indicative of how much the numbers can vary on a given night.
Never mind that people at the game and some viewing at home will quickly see through the charade. Or that obvious discrepancies provide reason to question other "facts" about the program.
Arnold is building a program and it takes time, as he has undoubtedly counseled recruits. Few teams draw as well for D-II opponents as they do conference ones. Anybody who has heard him speak knows that Gib is glib enough to spin himself from that one — i.e. come help us build a program that will fill the place to the rafters etc. …
Of course, "attendance" figures are far from uniform. A spokesman for USC, where Arnold last coached, said "turnstile count" is the number released. At Colorado, a spokesman said "If it’s a large difference due to the weather, we’d announce both. Otherwise it’s the bodies in the building for football and hoops."
Some other schools have other formulas, with many using some form of tickets sold or distributed, and the NCAA accepts what schools provide.
The hope is that, in time, UH’s success will lead to the kind of following in numbers that speak loudly — and proudly — for themselves.
In the meantime, the one thing for sure is that the ‘Bows, who are 0-3 in Western Athletic Conference play, have bigger issues to wrestle with than ways to gussie up attendance figures.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.