College Football 2011: 10 Big Time Programs with Terrible Home Game Attendance
Home field advantage? What home field advantage?
College football has the best atmosphere in sport—unless your team is on this list. When the visiting team enters the stadium, it's supposed to be intimidating, with upwards of one hundred thousand screaming fans.
It's supposed to make the visiting quarterback's ears ring. It's supposed to prevent the receivers and linemen from hearing audibles. It's supposed to be miserable.
But what would happen if a big time program throws a football game, and nobody came?
Let's find out.
Here is our list of 10 big time programs with terrible home game attendance.
10. Boston College
We start our countdown with one of the great, original college football programs for the northeast.
Boston College in known for many things, including the fact that it's fight song, “For Boston,” is generally credited as the first college fight song. Having begun football in 1892, BC has nearly 120 years of history behind it, but recent history has been forgettable, at best.
In 2010, Boston College averaged just 38,369 fans per home game. Alumni Stadium has 44,500 seats.
When there are more than 6,000 seats empty for every single home game, something is wrong. Other historical programs fill their stadiums every single Saturday, and many of those stadiums hold well in excess of double that which Boston's Alumni Stadium holds.
When you think football in the state of Indiana, you think Fighting Irish, not Hoosiers.
It's a good thing South Bend is where it is. Three miles further north, and Notre Dame would be in the state of Michigan. Where would football in the Hoosier state be then?
The current incarnation of Memorial Stadium at Indiana has a listed capacity of 52,929. A number of recent renovations to the stadium have improved the facility and the amenities offered at “The Rock.”
But a nice stadium doesn't draw fans when your team is terrible.
Just 41,953 fans attend Indiana home games, on average. When your stadium sits less than 80 percent full each and every Saturday, you have to imagine it's not the stadium itself.
Indiana has been improving season over season for the last three years. But that still only meant five wins in 2010.
It's difficult to blame fans from staying away when your team goes 2-10. It's never any fun to show up every week to watch your team get pasted.
But in 2010, Maryland had a heckuva turnaround season, winning seven more games, and finishing the year 9-4, including a bowl victory over East Carolina.
Yet the Terps still attracted fewer than 40,000 fans, on average, to home games.
So what gives?
Byrd Stadium is an aging facility, certainly. But it's still newer than most of the stadiums in the Big Ten. And losing teams elsewhere in the country draw more than double the numbers Maryland draws.
Maryland isn't a small school, either, with 27,000 undergraduates in College Park.
So why does Byrd Stadium sit each Saturday with more than 14,000 empty seats? Where's the enthusiasm from Maryland students and fans?
Before the hate mail begins, allow some explination.
Yes, the Bearcats averaged 35,067 fans last season with a stadium that holds 35,097 fans. And no, a 99.91 percent capacity would ordinarily not appear on this list.
But realistically, how long can this last?
If we travel back in time to, say, 2005, Cincinnati football games looked quite a bit different. This was before Brian Kelly. This was before Big East championships and BCS berths. This was before the Bearcats won eight games, much less 12.
Now, fast forward to 2010. Cincinnati is back, baby, and that ain't a good thing, because Brian Kelly isn't. A 4-8 record certainly looks like the Cincy of old.
As head coach of the Bearcats, Brian Kelly said, “This used to be a basketball school.”
Well, it looks as if Cincy is again a basketball school.
“We need more seats!” Kelly exclaimed on ESPN after earning another Big East title and students peppered the field with oranges.
No. Cincinnati doesn't need any more seats. As the days of Big East titles are probably firmly in the rear-view mirror, so too are sell-out crowds.
Cincinnati earns a place on this list because of their past poor attendance marks, and the expected return of empty seats.
This selection probably won't shock anyone.
The Commodores are the perennial favorites to bring up the rear in the SEC—both on the field and in the stands.
In 2010, Vandy averaged just 33,269 fans per home game.
When Alabama triples that—at their spring game—you know you're going to be in for some ridicule.
It's understandable that Vanderbilt has the smallest SEC stadium, but even if the Commodores don't have much hope of winning most weeks, you'd think there would be enough people in the Nashville area who would want to come watch Tennessee or Alabama or Georgia or Auburn or Florida.
The United States Military Academy at West Point hasn't had a truly nationally relevent football program since the late 1940's or early 1950's.
During World War II and the immediate post-war era, the US military attracted the best athletic specimens in the country.
Today, that's not quite the case.
While the men (and women) who are awarded an appointment to one of our country's fine military academies are some of the smartest, bravest, and upstanding people you can find, the world has changed to a point where the best football athlete looks to Columbus, Ann Arbor, Tuscaloosa, Austin, Gainesville, and similar places. Not West Point and Annapolis.
Still, the intense loyalty to these programs is felt not just by the students and alumni, but also by all the men and women who serve in the uniform of the particular service's academy.
But West Point's lack of on-field success means that Army personnel are some of the only fans that the Black Knights have.
And that translates into poor attendance.
In 2010, West Point had just 31,667 fans per home game. Michie Stadium holds 40,000.
Granted, the USMA has just under 4,500 students, but with the loyalty engrained in West Point alumni, Army personnel both current and past, and their families, one would expect at least 40,000 fans showing up to games.
Sorry, Army; Navy won't be appearing on this list. Granted, the USNA has a smaller stadium, but their average attendance tops Army—just like their football team.
This shouldn't surprise anyone.
Most Big Ten watchers know the downfalls of Ryan Field. Although it holds 47,130 fans, it has rarely—if ever—tested its limits.
So the Wildcats aren't exactly Rose Bowl contenders. Their last trip to Pasadena was for 1996 Rose Bowl. But Northwestern has been to three straight bowl games, and they have one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in Dan Persa.
Still, only 36,449 fans are there to watch the Wildcats on an average Saturday—and many of them are fans of the visiting team.
The aforementioned downfalls of Ryan Field are that it can lull an opponent to sleep, almost literally. It has a reputation of being one of the quietest college football venues in the nation. It can be hard to get amped up for a game with little to no crowd noise—even if you're the visitors.
The Duke Blue Devils attract some of the top athletes in the nation.
But they all play basketball.
The football Blue Devils are another story, and they come in at No. 2 on our list.
Wallace Wade Stadium has a capacity of just 33,941. Wake Forest is the only BCS-AQ program with a smaller stadium capacity (31,500). Wake Forest doesn't appear on the list because their smallest stadium is at least full on most Saturdays.
The lack of seats still doesn't have Blue Devil fans struggling to find tickets on Saturday. While scalpers at venues like Michigan Stadium, Bryant-Denny Staiudm, and Notre Dame Stadium can fetch prices in multiples of face value, a ticket holder in Durham would be lucky to get face value.
In 2010, Duke averaged just 28,750 fans per game, meaning Wallace Wade Stadium was just 84.7 percent full, on average.
If you have one of the smallest stadiums in the country, you better fill every single seat.
No kidding, Stanford really ought to be ashamed of itself. Stanford fans, shame on you. Shame, shame, shame.
The Cardinal had perhaps the best season in school history in 2010. Stanford's offense was electric. Andrew Luck is one of the best college football players in the nation. The Cardinal earned a BCS bowl berth, and went on to win the Orange Bowl.
So where the heck are you?
For the 40,042 of you who show up on Saturdays, you should be calling out your fellow so-called “fans” of Cardinal football.
Granted, Stanford doesn't have the largest of stadiums, but when your FBS, BCS Automatic Qualifying school is perfectly located between San Francisco and San Jose, has a bona fide Heisman hopeful, and torches the competition en route to a 12-1 record, there's no excuse for 10,000 empty seats on Saturdays.
There is no excuse for Stanford Stadium not being packed beyond capacity every single Saturday.
We expect better from you, Cardinal faithful, in 2011.
1. Washington State
The Cougars top the list of big time programs with terrible home game attendance.
You would think that with one of the smaller BCS-AQ stadiums in the country, the Cougars would be able to pack Martin Stadium every Saturday.
You'd think wrong.
Martin Stadium has a listed capacity of just 35,117. Yet in 2010, Washington State averaged 24,532 fans—an abysmal 69.9 percent of capacity.
It probably doesn't help matters than WSU has just five wins over the past three seasons.
Of course, if Washington State had a larger stadium with better fan support, they'd be able to attract a few more decent recruits...
Whatever the cause, Washington State holds the dubious top spot on our list of big time programs with terrible home game attendance.