Final Four brings record number of fans to North Texas, leaves lasting impact
The 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Final Four set an all-time attendance record and saw record-breaking online and television viewership for both semifinal games on Saturday, April 5.
The two-session Final Four attendance totaled 158,682 fans, setting the record for the highest attendance and surpassing the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta by 9,006 fans. This year marked the highest attended national championship game with 79,238 fans, exceeding the previous record, also Atlanta in 2013, by 4,912 fans. It also marks the highest attended semifinals in tournament history with 79,444 fans, besting the previous record from the 2011 Final Four at Reliant Stadium in Houston by 4,023 fans.
In total, 739,189 fans attended the 36 sessions of the 2014 tournament.
The four regional sites (Anaheim, Indianapolis, New York and Memphis) were filled to 96 percent capacity, selling more than 181,000 tickets. In earlier rounds, arenas were filled to 91 percent capacity at the eight second- and third-round sites, and 94 percent capacity for the First Four in Dayton.
“In my mind, there’s no such thing as a bad tournament; they are all great for a college basketball aficionado,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s vice president for men’s basketball. “But there was something exceptional about this year’s version of March Madness. The record number of overtime games and so many others that came down to the last few possessions, the usual upsets and close calls for higher-seeded teams, the tremendous crowds and atmospheres, and the quality of play and coaching all contributed to a memorable tournament. The Final Four featured three more terrific games, and our hosts in North Texas and at the Big 12 Conference put forth their best effort to make sure that everyone who attended the games, the March Madness Music Festival, Bracket Town or the many other events in the community has memories to last a lifetime.”
A record-breaking 1,829 media members were credentialed for this year’s Final Four.
Turner Sports’ exclusive presentation of the national semifinals across TBS, TNT and truTV grossed 16.3 million total viewers and an 11.0 HH coverage rating for the Kentucky-Wisconsin game to become the most-viewed college basketball game of all time on a cable television network, based on Nielsen Fast Nationals.
Coverage of Connecticut-Florida across the three networks grossed 11.7 million total viewers and an 8.2 HH coverage rating to become the second most-watched college basketball game ever on a cable television network.
CBS coverage of the NCAA national championship had 21 million viewers with a 12.4 HH coverage rating.
Coverage of the tournament reached 102 million viewers (unique viewers), down 2.5 percent from last year. Tournament viewers on average watched 377 minutes, while in 2013 tournament viewers watched 370 minutes on average.
All 67 games were broadcast nationally through the NCAA’s agreement with Turner Sports and CBS. Beyond the national reach, games were broadcast internationally via ESPN International to 165 countries across the globe in five languages – English, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese and Italian.
This year’s tournament saw four additional broadcasts, with two teamcasts for each semifinal game.
“The Final Four continues to evolve and grow each year, as evidenced by the record crowds at the semifinal and championship games, and the number of television and online viewers from around the world,” said Ron Wellman, the director of athletics at Wake Forest and chair of the Division I men’s basketball committee. “Whether you’re talking about traditional broadcasts on TBS and CBS, the innovative teamcasts carried on truTV and TNT Saturday night, the people in 165 countries who had access to the ESPN International broadcast, or the incredible number of people who watch games on their mobile devices, it’s clear that this tournament is on the short list of the greatest and most popular sporting events in the world.”
In addition to the record-breaking television audience, more people tuned in using NCAA March Madness Live. Across online and mobile (tablets and smart phones) platforms, the two semifinal games netted 3.8 million live streams for an increase of 76 percent from last year. The doubleheader also combined to register more than one million hours of live video consumed, up 37 percent from 2013.
Throughout the course of the tournament, 9.9 million unique viewers (up 9 percent from 2013) streamed 70 million live video streams (up 42 percent from 2013). A total of 15.1 million live hours were watched (up 7 percent from 2013). The NCAA March Madness Live app was downloaded more than 4.5 million times.
According to Social Guide, the National Semifinals tallied more than 1.8 million tweets – that were seen by nearly 200 million followers – for a 36 percent increase from last year.
NCAA Final Four social media accounts saw a 39 percent growth in social media audience to approximately 1.3 million people, and recorded approximately 43.2 million impressions during the entire Final Four, including the national championship game.
Fan events and participation
More than 153,500 people attended Bracket Town presented by Capital One and the March Madness Music Festival.
Approximately 2,900 youth participants, along with additional parents and guardians, were given t-shirts and basketballs and then attended Bracket Town presented by Capital One on Sunday, April 6 during the Final Four Dribble refreshed by Coca-Cola.
More than 21,500 fans attended Reese’s Final Four Friday, viewing the four teams’ open practices and the Reese’s College All-Star Game on Friday, April 4.
Through the NCAA partnership with Samaritan’s Feet and Feed the Hungry, more than 2,000 pairs of shoes and boxes of food were distributed to kids and families in need in North Texas. Shoes were provided by the NCAA, the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ and Samaritan’s Feet. Meals were provided by the NCAA and Feed the Hungry.
More than 9,400 children participated in the Service Learning Adventures in North Texas (SLANT) program, which promotes social responsibility through service learning, from NCAA Community Outreach 101, Reese’s and CBS 11. The participants contributed more than 100,000 hours of community service. An additional 6,000 people attended the SLANT Celebration.
The NCAA also engaged in several sustainability initiatives, including opening the first NCAA green court at the MLK Jr. Community Center in Dallas In February 2014, the NCAA planted the “First Four” trees of 1,014 trees that the City of Arlington will plant throughout North Texas as part of its Final Four celebration.
“Clear out the Cabinet” took place at all Final Four volunteer orientations. More than 40 large boxes and more than 4,500 pounds of food were collected and donated to Mission Arlington and the North Texas Food Bank.
More than 2,500 volunteers were utilized for the 2014 NCAA Final Four, giving more than 34,000 hours of service.
Connecticut is now 4-0 in national championship games, which sets the record for most title game wins without having a loss.
This year marks the first time since Arizona won the national championship in 1997 that the national champion was not also a conference regular-season and/or tournament champion.
With a 7-seed and an 8-seed playing for the 2014 title game, the combined seed total (15) set an all-time mark for highest ever. The previous was 11, when third-seeded UConn played No. 8 Butler in the 2011 championship game.
Looking back on this year’s tournament, there are a number of other key scoring statistics related to the emphasis on new officiating guidelines:
Tournament field goal percentage for the 67 games improved from 42.3 percent in 2013 to 44.2 percent this year. Three-point shooting went up from 33.1 to 33.6 percent, and free-throw percentage improved from 71.1 percent to 72.8.
Free throw attempts per game went up, but only slightly (19.1 to 19.8). Same with fouls (up from 17.1 per game in 2013 to 17.6 this year).
Scoring went up 4 percent, increasing from 65.8 points per game in 2013 to 68.4 points per game this year.
Turnovers dipped by more than 14 percent, going from 12 per game in 2013 to 10.3 this year, while steals decreased 12.5 percent, dropping from 6.2 to 5.4 per game.