Penn State finally beat Michigan on the field, a 46-17 drubbing in front of a national audience. The streak was over. But Penn State is still No. 2 to the Wolverines in attendance, even after Michigan Stadium temporarily reduced its capacity for renovations.
It was announced yesterday that Penn State averaged 108,254 fans per game in 2008. But from the Penn State press release, you wouldn't have known that it was second to Michigan. In all their Public Information Office wisdom, the athletic department buried that little tidbit at the bottom of the release. You can't blame them. It's embarrassing, as so eloquently expressed by TNL:
"It's no mystery, we don't need a team from CSI to painstakingly sift through the remains or Jack Bower's terrorist interrogation methods to find an answer...when you schedule absolute SHIT TEAMS for OOC home games people aren't going to come and when you schedule the (oh by the way, undefeated) Utah's of the world, well, you are going to fill the seats even when your team is going through the worst record in its proud history. This ain't rocket science, it's business and the business of scheduling horrible teams will only last as long as the Big Ten Championships do. Better keep winning [athletic director] Tim Curley or things are going to go south really, really fast."
TNL pointed to Penn State's home opener against FCB (I-AA) Coastal Carolina as a main culprit of the lower average attendance, and I couldn't agree more. But let's be honest first. In 2007, the numbers were up to 108,917, mostly due to home dates with Notre Dame and Ohio State.
There were also games home against Wisconsin and Iowa. It was a high-profile home slate, surely, but we all knew that the 2008 home schedule was weaker. That should have been incentive enough to force the athletic department to scrub out CCU for, at the very least, an FBS (I-A) opponent.
I would be so brave as to suggest, with full confidence, that even a MAC or C-USA team would have drawn more fans. There is no excuse for Penn State, with the largest capacity in the nation, to trail any other team in average attendance.
We all know that Michigan has been counting everyone for years, including hot dog vendors, janitors and the pigeons in the rafters. It's also widely known– Michigan fans would deny it to the last, though –that Michigan's bleachers allow fans two inches less than Beaver Stadium does.
When I worked for the All-Sports Museum in Beaver Stadium, we would give tours up into the club seats. There, I would tell visitors that if you were to reduce Penn State's fan space allowance per "seat" to equal that of Michigan's, Beaver Stadium would average about 126,000 fans per sold-out contest.
In some way, I guess we're fortunate that Penn State hasn't duped to that level, but after hearing the news that Beaver Stadium is still, still trailing Michigan, I might be willing to reconsider.