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Barry Jacobs On Wake's Woes

If it's true the loss of approximately 1,000 ticketholders per game was a factor in N.C. State's firing of football coach Tom O'Brien, then you certainly must wonder about the fate of Wake Forest basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik.

In the first two years since Bzdelik's arrival the Demon Deacons lost 3,000 spectators per game, a decrease of nearly 25 percent. This year has seen a modest bump in attendance of about five percent, but renewed losing could prove erosive.

There are significant differences between the situations at Raleigh and Winston-Salem, of course, and not just due to the shapes of the balls used.

O'Brien finished six years. Bzdelik is in his third season.

O'Brien was hired by a previous athletic director, and fired by Debbie Yow, who apparently made it known for quite some time she was looking to make a change.

Bzdelik was picked and has been protected by Ron Wellman, still the Wake A.D. Wellman went out on a limb to pick Bzdelik, who lacks the outgoing personality of his predecessors or much of a reputation beyond coaching circles.

A key difference between the two coaches is that O'Brien's teams posted winning records in half of his seasons and advanced to postseason play two-thirds of the time, including this year.

So far Bzdelik has posted consecutive losing records, with the 8-24 mark of 2011 the most losses ever by an ACC squad. Last year's team was 13-18. Neither unit advanced to postseason competition; Wellman cited the failure to win in tournament play as a reason to dump Dino Gaudio.

The '12 Demon Deacons won four league games, three more than Bzdelik's first year. Chalk one up to progress.

Wake averaged 7,209 fans over its first five home games of 2012-13, an improvement over 2012 and 2011. This fall's high attendance, 8,411 in an arena that seats 14,407, came against Seton Hall.

Unfortunately a defeat by the Pirates left spectators with a bit of a bad taste. The Deacs were outscored 28-12 down the stretch, with nine turnovers in the final 10 and a half minutes.

That dropped their record to 4-5, the worst start of Bdelik's underwhelming tenure. Remarkably, that's the most losses in Wake's first nine games since 1988.

Yes, this is a youth-dominated team with some talent. Bzdelik starts three freshmen. Against Nebraska in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, newcomers Aaron Rountree III, a forward, and playmaker Madison Jones were particularly impressive. But patience has its limits. A sloooow start and an eroded fan base can't bode well for program stability or Bzdelik's job security.

Attendance Trends, Last Five Seasons at Joel Memorial Coliseum
(W/L Record Includes Games Home And Away)

W/L 1st 5 High Att. Low Att. Season Pct. of
Year 1st 9 At Home 1st 5 1st 5 Avg. Att. Capacity
2013 4-5 7,209 8,411 6,508 TBD TBD
2012 6-3 6,834 7,813 6,022 8,675 60.2
2011 5-4 6,089 8,323 3,014 9,199 63.9
2010 7-2 9,368 9,911 9,021 11,833 82.1
2009 9-0 10,313 12,445 9,191 12,122 84.1