NCAA Football Attendance Figures Down: How Did Your Team Do?

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IMay 30, 2010

Larry Burton (Panama City Beach, Fla.) The recession, higher gas prices, unemployment—name your poison, but overall, attendance was down in 2009 from the previous year according to an NCAA study. Which teams and what conferences lost the most visitors?

According to NCAA numbers in Division One, where the 120 big boys play, the average attendance was 45,545 fans in 757 games this season. That's a drop of a little over 900 fans a game, or a 2.2% drop overall.

But Division One's drop was not as bad as Division Two (down 5.3%) or Division Three (down about 8.1%).

But for Division One, just multiply 900 (the average fan drop per team) by the average ticket price and you come to understand what that means to teams across the country in revenue. And that's not counting the soft drinks and snacks they couldn't consume and all the souvenirs they didn't buy.

But just like in real life where the rich suffer the least, the SEC numbers came out best, and Alabama had over 10,000 people on a waiting list to buy tickets. The stadium expansion in Tuscaloosa should only mean bigger and better numbers for both the SEC and Alabama.

With 6,560,738 fans turning the SEC turnstiles, that came to an average of 76,288 per game. Still, that number was just shy of the all time number of 76,844 fans in 2008.

By conference, the numbers were: Big Ten (71,769), Big 12 (62,875), Pacific-10 (54,186), and Atlantic Coast (51,249). Those were the top five.

Then we had the Big East (44,000), Mountain West (33,202), Conference USA (26,000), WAC (22,749), Sun Belt (16,463), and lastly the MAC (15,317).

For the MAC, this might be the first conference booted from Division One. To qualify for Division One status, you must average 15,000 fans per game. Many teams did not do that, and others "inflated" their numbers to reach that number.

One interesting note in attendance figures was Boise State, who always complains the NCAA doesn't take them seriously. But if your own fans don't, why should the rest of the NCAA?

Boise State averaged just 32,782 fans per game, or almost 1,000 less than their capacity. Hey Boise, when you get your own fans behind you, maybe the rest of us might start thinking about it.

The teams that did take attendance seriously were the ones with the biggest stadiums. Those teams have big stadiums for a reason, the demand for tickets. As stated earlier, the rich got richer.

The top teams in average attendance were: Michigan (108,933), Penn State (107,008), Ohio State (105,261), Texas (101,175), Tennessee (99,220), Georgia (92,746), LSU (92,489), Alabama (92,138), Florida (90,635), Nebraska (85,888),  Southern Cal (84,799), Oklahoma (84,778), Auburn (84,614), and at No. 14 Notre Dame (80,795).

That finished up the 80,000 plus club.

However, these were not the teams with the highest number of capacity. Many of the teams listed could have been rated higher had they only had the seats to put people in. These figures merely show the number of people that did occupy a seat.

Which teams had the highest percentage of increase?

Dan Mullen has Mississippi State excited as they put a whopping 10,339 more people in the stands than last year, followed closely by a 10,174 fan increase at Yale and a close 10,051 increase at Indiana.

Finishing out the top ten in increase (with far fewer numbers than the first three) are:

4. TCU 5. Stanford 6. Rutgers 7. N.C. A&T 8. Syracuse 9. Oklahoma St. 10. Kent St.

Next year look for Alabama to make this list with the addition of at least 9,000 new seats and sky boxes.

In the end, college football will remain the number one sports venue in average stadium attendance.  Major league baseball averages just over 30,000 per game and the NFL just over 68,000.

Television ratings are also higher and revenues from television are expected to go nowhere but up. Fans in the stands are a bragging point, but fans in front of TV's are more important to advertisers.

Though average attendance was down, viewership was never higher. So look for 2010 to mirror 2009's trends, just behind all time highs with the big teams continuing to fill the stadiums.