CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Admit it. We in West Virginia just don't handle change well - even when the rest of the country has done so.
The latest such example is West Virginia University's reseating of those holding basketball season tickets in the Coliseum. Basically, for the first time in the arena's history, all season-ticket holders were removed from their previous seats and reseated under a system that rewarded higher donors to the Mountaineer Athletic Club.
Since then there have been grumbles. Some are pointing to the plan to explain the low number of people turning out for WVU men's games.
After a surprising 8,336 attended the Mountaineers' opening-night game against Mount St. Mary's, the average attendance plunged to just over 5,150. For the Georgia Southern game, WVU drew but 4,814. For the Loyola game, the number dropped to 4,692.
In a word, yikes.
Emails began to trickle to my computer.
"We are spiraling down like Pitt," read one. "WVU in both sports. The average fan senses the elitism from changes in parking to ticket surcharges to seat availability changes."
"What impact has the Coliseum Reseating Plan had on attendance?'' another asked. "What were this year's season-ticket sales vs. last year? I have a feeling that season-ticket sales are down as a result. I know a lot of people (us included) who did not renew."
So I did some research. First, I spoke with WVU athletic director Oliver Luck.
"The early small crowds are a phenomenon around the country," Luck said. "I've talked to other ADs. You'd have to ask those that didn't renew why, but I don't think reseating had that much to do with it.
"I think it's a general malaise across college basketball. The lack of student attendance is a serious issue, whether it's here or Ohio State or Michigan. We're concerned about it."
Luck said he'd like to put in place an "outbound sales office" to try and generate more season-ticket sales, but said "it's too early to push the panic button."
Surely, WVU will draw a nice crowd when Gonzaga hits Morgantown on Tuesday. But let's get to the numbers.
According to Matt Borman, executive director of the MAC, the total season-ticket sales of last season numbered 7,431. This season, the number is 5,798.
One has to keep in mind the Mountaineers finished an ugly 13-19 in the 2012-13 season. Also, despite the housecleaning by WVU coach Bob Huggins, potential standouts Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon were deemed unavailable for this season.