For Fresno State, attracting fans to basketball games continues to be a struggle, and alumnus Brian Yengoyan is conducting a survey as part of a project for his graduate studies at Georgetown to figure out why. (Paul Schlesinger/The Collegian)
Despite having one of the top basketball venues in the conference, Fresno State still can’t manage to fill the Save Mart Center.
While searching for a topic for his research project, this caught the attention of Fresno native and Georgetown University graduate student Brian Yengoyan.
Yengoyan, a Fresno State alumnus, launched a survey last weekend to gather information and take a step in figuring out why the university’s athletic department can’t make the most of it’s large venue for Bulldog basketball games.
“According to the survey responses I’ve received, they [the fans] want something different, a different experience regardless if the team wins or loses,” Yengoyan said. “I went to games this season, and that student section is still not full. I think it’s about creating an environment, which takes time and a concerted effort. It’s more about organization and communication than anything else.”
Yengoyan graduated from Fresno State in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in finance. During his time at the university, he was closely involved with the basketball team during legendary head coach Jerry Tarkanian’s final season, as he served as team manager and assistant academic adviser.
“I was around when Tarkanian was there, and I saw the loyalty and what it meant to the fan base and how important that was to the community of Fresno as a whole,” Yengoyan said. “It was a big deal, and it still is a big deal. People need Fresno State Athletics to give them that form of entertainment. It’s a great form of entertainment that should be cherished, and the people in charge should understand how powerful it is or can be amongst the community.”
The Fresno State grad brought up the impact that this issue can have in terms of recruiting. He said that having a top arena can work in your favor, but it can work against you if you can’t get people in the seats.
“If you can’t fill it, it can work against you,” he said. “It works as a disadvantage because it feels empty, and because of that, it feels like no one cares.”
Yengoyan says that a team’s win-loss record correlates to attendance. There are two parts to a successful team: the athletic department and the coaching staff. The athletic department responsibility lies in operating the game, venue and ticketing. The team’s performance lies in the hand of the coaching staff and program.
“[Those parts] are two separate things, and I think they should be viewed separately,” Yengoyan said. “You could have a good experience and a poor-performing team, and fans will still get something out of it. The same goes for having a great team and a bad fan experience. The fans will still feel that there’s something missing, so you need both.”
His survey asks questions in this format: based on a scale of 1-5, how important is this aspect to you? With 1 being strongly disagree or extremely not important to 5 being strongly agree or extremely important. While seeking feedback, he asks people to grade the entertainment, promotions, Bulldog band and the dance and cheer teams.
It also gives fans an opportunity to rate the Save Mart Center’s customer service, ticket buying and quality of food and beverage. Toward the end, there is a section to provide general comments about in-game entertainment.
“The survey is about getting real results,” he said. “It’s about asking students, alumni and the general public what they think and no matter what they say, let’s embrace that to figure out what we can do. The importance is to hear it from them, and if no actions are taken, then that’s a shame on the people in charge.
“We have to know what the people want. Do they want more from the cheer and dance teams? Do they want more in-game promotions? Do they want more video boards? Do they want better food? Do they want better beer? From all the things I’ve heard, they’re all manageable things that don’t involve a lot of capital to be spent to provide that. To me, you have to ask questions and then be open to that response.”
Yengoyan’s survey can be found at: