Somewhere deep in the bowels of NCAA.org there's a page describing the differences between the divisions it makes for college programs. It includes the following rule:
"Football Bowl Subdivision teams have to meet minimum attendance requirements (average 15,000 people in actual or paid attendance per home game), which must be met once in a rolling two-year period. NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams do not need to meet minimum attendance requirements."
If your favorite college team can't average 15,000 people to a game once every two years, the NCAA technically can drop your team from what used to be called Division I-A to I-AA.
No team has yet to be dropped, but which teams are dangerously close? And when will the NCAA man up and start enforcing its own rules?
Going back to 2005, some teams have already not met this standard for three straight years. According to the NCAA, these teams are supposed to pull 15,000 fans at least once every two years if they don't want to be dropped from the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Teams that have not met the standard since 2005
Utah State: 10,896, 11,360, 13,131
Eastern Michigan: 5,219, 14,734, 6,910
Teams that have not met the standard since 2006
Rice: 14,760, 13,353
Idaho: 14,543, 11,479
Teams that did not meet the standard in 2007
Ball State: 13,085
Kent State: 8,999
New Mexico State: 14,412
Florida International: 7,982
Utah State managed to get both BYU and Utah to visit their stadium this year, as well as having a favorable conference schedule, so the Aggies might actually get 15,000 this year.
Eastern Michigan was able to pull 16,860 for their conference opener last week, but losing 41-17 might not get a lot fans to come back for the rest of the season.
Rice has also been doing better with a revamped offense, pulling in over 16,000.
Idaho seems to have wised up to the rules, reporting "15,003" people for its first two games of 2008.
It will be interesting to see how the other five teams that missed the standard in 2007 report their 2008 attendance. Also, I'm curious if the NCAA will ever have the cojones to drop a team.
Coupled with the NCAA rule that mandates FBS conferences have at least eight teams, dropping a school or two from a conference might cause the entire conference to fold. The Sun Belt (eight schools) and the WAC (nine schools) are both vulnerable to this problem.
While the MAC and CUSA also have teams on the death list, they certainly could absorb the losses of a few teams without collapsing.
The NCAA may also not want to be the catalyst to another series of conference raids, like what happened when the ACC picked a few teams from the Big East in 2004.
Why any team can't average 15,000 in paid attendance is beyond me. It seems simple loopholes like cutting the ticket price in half and having a yearlong two-for-one sale could instantly double "paid attendance," which is probably the only way Idaho is currently averaging "15,003" people.
Nice job, Vandals. Keep up the good work.