Leon Rice has visited diners and dorm rooms. Hes brought pizza and players. Hes told stories and jokes.
Boise States third-year mens basketball coach is willing to do just about anything to bring more fans into Taco Bell Arena.
To have a great program, you have to have a great home-court advantage, Rice said.
The Broncos have neither, forcing an inevitable chicken-and-egg question: Will more fans spark more winning, or will more winning motivate more fans?
Boise State (2-0) hosts Louisiana (formerly Louisiana-Lafayette) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Taco Bell Arena, seeking a third straight home win to open the season. Louisiana is 1-0.
The Broncos drew 1,950 for a season-opening victory against Texas Southern and 2,616 for a win against Oakland. Boise State averaged 4,367 last year with conference games against San Diego State and UNLV drawing large crowds.
I want them to come and see Boise State, Rice said. Its a fun team to grow with.
The school is helping. Tickets from Saturdays football game against Colorado State can be exchanged for a free ticket to the basketball game. Rice joked that he wants 33,000 people at the game.
Boise State also started a student reward program to encourage students to attend games. For each game they attend, students can earn prizes, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, discounts at the bookstore, a chance to win an iPad Mini and, even, a car. There will be a raffle drawing at the end of the season and a student will win a car.
Its unconventional, for sure. But, perhaps, thats what the Broncos need to build interest in the program.
The best teams have the best student sections. We want to keep it building, said Steven Anderson, a senior from Nevada and the president of the rambunctious Corral, the Broncos student section.
The Corral has a list of about 500 interested students. About 150 showed up for the Oakland game. When the Corral did a flash mob at last years UNLV game, it had nearly 1,200 students involved.
Rice attended the groups tip-off event this year and players have noticed the groups efforts, which include giant heads of players and chants.
The students are great. They bring a lot of energy to the arena and you can hear them, junior guard Thomas Bropleh said. That support helps us a lot.
While Rice works to build the audience, he has also made sure his team knows that crowd size shouldnt affect how his team plays. No matter the size of Sundays crowd, the Broncos will face a much larger one Tuesday at Michigan State.
If its one, 1,000 or 10,000, coach always stresses we play with passion every play, Bropleh said. Regardless of how many people are in the seats, were just going to play with the same passion every day.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph