Setting Regional Gate Records Straight

As Mississippi State prepares to host a second-round or ‘super' regional tournament for the first time, Diamond Dog fans and media alike are speculating over the possibility of re-writing attendance records at Dudy Noble Field. This despite unfriendly scheduling for ESPN/ESPN2 broadcast with scheduled start times of 11:00am both Friday and Saturday and, if necessary, noon on Sunday.

But what are the specific goals to shoot for when Mississippi State and Clemson fans assemble at Polk-Dement Stadium? What schools or sites have drawn the largest single-game or all-tournament gates since the NCAA went to a regional system in 1975 and the current two-round format in 1999? And what school really turned in the largest check to the NCAA after play was done? While most of the country couldn't care less, there is a unique clique of schools that claim various records for their fans in all sorts of contexts.

Thanks to information provided by the Southeastern Conference Office, here are the marks that Mississippi State folk will keep in mind this weekend; the records for the largest game and total weekend crowds, for both super and first-round regionals. Keep in mind that during the single-round regional era of 1975-88 for about half that period all regionals were four-team tourneys, though starting in 1984 some and eventually all became six-team tournaments through 1998.

And, all gates are paid attendance. Unlike the regular season though the ‘paid' designation is a much more accurate reflection of the true turnstile count since there are no discount or student tickets for NCAA tournaments. In fact, it is standard if unspoken practice for host schools and sites to slightly under-count their announced gate to stay in line with actual gate receipts which must all be turned in to the NCAA.

Super Regional Single Date Attendance: 1. 11,870 for Tulane vs. LSU, '01; 2. 11,719 LSU vs. Tulane '01; 3. 11,679 Tulane vs. LSU '01 (all three games at Zephyr Field); 4. 10,027, Arkansas vs. Florida State '04 at Fayetteville; 5. 9,338, Arkansas vs. Florida State '04 at Fayetteville; 6. 9,202, Ole Miss vs. Miami '06 at Oxford; 7. 9,139 Ole Miss vs. Miami '06 at Oxford; 8. 8,947 Ole Miss vs. Texas '05 at Oxford; 9. 8,791 Ole Miss vs. Texas '05 at Oxford; 10. 8,711 Nebraska vs. Miami '05 at Lincoln.

Super Regional Total Paid Attendance: 1. Tulane '01 (Zephyr Field) 34,341; 2. Ole Miss '06 26,025; 3. Nebraska '03 23,913. 4. LSU '03 22,515; 5. Ole Miss '05 21,817; 6. Texas A&M '99 21,621; 7. Arkanasas '04 19,365; 8. Texas '02 18,949; 9. Rice '99 18,793 (Astrodome); 10. Nebraska '05 17,289.

Regional Total Paid Attendance: 1. LSU '98 67,938; 2. LSU '97 66,561; 3. Miss. State '97 64.723; 4. Miss. State '89 63,388; 5. Miss. State '90 62,191; 6. LSU '96 58,016; 7. LSU '95 56,231; 8. LSU '94 55,283; 9. Texas A&M '98 51,715; 10. LSU '02 51,608. All were six-team, first-round regionals, the format used from 1988-98. And MSU was in that Texas A&M Regional in 1998.

Also, the most ‘profitable' regional ever held was not at State or LSU. It was in 2005 at Nebraska, with official receipts of $284,407. LSU ranks second and third for their 2002 and 1998 tournaments, while State ranks fourth at $253,509 in 2000.

The highest-netting super regional was at New Orleans in 2001, hosted by Tulane at Zephyr Field with receipts of $502,639. That is over twice the profits of the second-place 2004 tourney at Arkansas which netted $192,746.

The single-game regional attendance record was set in 1995 at Oklahoma City, when 15,379 watched Oklahoma beat Auburn at the city's professional park. The post-season campus record still belongs to Mississippi State when 11,496 turned out for a 11-9 Bulldog loss to Florida State in 1990. Yes, loss, in the second of three games the teams played before State won the tourney on Monday.

Eight of the top-ten single game crowds to watch a NCAA regional, whether on campus or off, belong to Dudy Noble Field. In fact, that includes the 9,184 who watched State host Michigan in 1985 (the Wolverines won that game but not the regional) when the stadium didn't even have an official name and was mostly wooden bleachers. That game still ranks 10th for all-time, single-date in a first-round regional.

Naturally the number Bulldog fans prize most is 14,991, the crowd that somehow jammed itself into PDS in 1989 for a Saturday set with Florida. That was and remains the largest on-campus crowd ever to watch college baseball, a mark that even Mississippi State almost certainly can never break with more restricted access and tighter accounting at the gates.

But the on-campus regional gate record, which MSU also holds? That is within reach this weekend depending on how many Diamond Dogs fans will turn out for a 11:00 morning first pitch. Some records, after all, are still made to be broken.

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