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Publish date: Feb 4, 2011

NCAA football attendance reaches new heights

By Gary K. Johnson
NCAA.org

College football attendance from the 2010 season set new highs for the fourth time in the last five years.

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A record 49,670,895 fans attended games at all 639 NCAA schools this past year, including home games, neutral-site games and postseason contests, breaking the previous high set in 2008. This comes after the 2009 season saw a slight dip in attendance after three straight record-breaking years.

The total attendance increase of 1,386,222 fans from 2009 to 2010 primarily came courtesy of Division I, which saw an increase of 713,527. Football Bowl Subdivision teams set a record of 37,678,722 fans, while Football Championship Subdivision home attendance was its third-highest ever at 6,031,800.

Home attendance at Divisions II and III games increased by 148,934 and 189,059, respectively. Reclassifying teams saw a jump of 334,702 fans from 2009.

Michigan’s 111,825 fans per game over seven home contests set an all-time mark for individual schools. The Wolverines broke their own record of 111,175 set in 1999. It was the Wolverines 13th straight attendance title.

Four other programs also topped the 100,000 mark – Ohio State at 105,278, Penn State at 104,234, Alabama at 101,821 and Texas at 100,654. This was the fourth straight year that Big Ten Conference teams held the top three spots.

Despite that, though, the Southeastern Conference was the best Division I league draw for the 13th straight year. SEC schools claimed six of the remaining top 10 spots.

Other highlights

  • The 120 FBS teams averaged 45,912 fans in 755 home games this season. That’s up 367 fans per game from 2009.
  • The SEC totaled 6,521,151 fans while averaging 76,719 per game, just shy of the SEC’s all-time conference record of 76,844 in 2008.
  • The Big Ten (72,106), Big 12 (62,975), Pacific-10 (53,819) and Atlantic Coast (51,493) rounded out the top five in conference attendance.
  • The average number of fans attending a Football Bowl Subdivision game in 2010 was 46,632, a jump of 351 fans per game from 2009. The Football Championship Subdivision topped that with an increase of 771 fans per game.
  • The FBS postseason featured 35 bowl games that totaled 1,813,215 spectators for an average of 51,806 fans per contest.
  • As for NCAA championship tournaments, total attendance for the FCS tournament was 178,914 for a 9,417 average over 19 playoff games. The Division II tournament totaled 101,987 fans for a 4,434 average in 23 games. The Division III tournament had 59,623 total fans for a 1,923 average over 31 games.
  • Michigan was the first school to average more than 100,000 a game (in 1976) and has captured the attendance title 41 times since 1949, including 35 since 1974.
  • For all-game attendance – including home, road and neutral-site games – Michigan was tops as 1,249,123 fans watched the Wolverines over 13 games. Thirteen teams played in front of more than one million fans this season.
  • Four Division I teams enjoyed increased crowds of more than 10,000 fans per game from last year. Leading the way was Louisville, which benefitted from a newly expanded Cardinal Stadium. Louisville enjoyed an 18,198-person increase per game from 2009 to 2010. The Cardinals were followed by Northwestern (12,259), Rice (12,019) and Eastern Michigan (10,869).
  • Appalachian State led FCS attendance for the third time in four years with an average of 25,715 fans per game. The Mountaineers edged Montana’s average of 25,448. Appalachian State also was tops in the subdivision in total attendance at 205,719 in eight games.
  • Among FCS conferences, the Southwestern Athletic Conference enjoyed its 32nd attendance title in 33 years. The 10 SWAC teams averaged 14,606 fans per game and totaled 788,684 spectators. The Southern (681,275 fans for an average of 13,101) and the Colonial Athletic (661,110 fans for an average of 11,205) were second and third, respectively, and both set personal bests in total and average attendance.
  • In Division II, Texas A&M-Kingsville captured its first attendance title by averaging 11,989 fans per game. The four other schools that averaged more than 10,000 per game were West Texas A&M (10,760), Morehouse (10,651), Grand Valley State (10,152) and North Alabama (10,133).
  • The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference posted its 18th Division II attendance title in 19 years. SIAC teams averaged 7,155 fans per game. Next were the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association at 5,357 and the Lone Star with 5,066 fans per game.
  • In Division III, St. John’s (Minnesota) ran away with its 10th straight attendance title by averaging 8,651 per game. The rest of the top five were Hampden-Sydney (7,024), Wisconsin-Whitewater (6,113), Wabash (5,789) and McDaniel (5,642).
  • Also in Division III, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference returned to its attendance title days by averaging 3.341 fans per game. The ODAC was the attendance champion in 14 of 16 years from 1989 to 2004. The Minnesota Intercollegiate Conference had won the last five years before finishing second in 2010 with 2,914 fans per game.

Gary K. Johnson is an associate director of statistics for the NCAA.