Autumn Saturdays in America have become a tradition. Baseball may brand itself as America's pastime. The NFL claims it is the most popular sport in the nation. However, it's college football that draws millions of fans every single week of the season.
Of course, there are over 650 college football programs and soon to be 124 FBS programs. That obviously helps with attracting more fans, but some programs just don't seem to be getting with the college football fun!
One of the best things about college football is the atmosphere, the tailgating, the parties before and after, the local fare and the way the town lives and dies with the successes and failures of their team.
So which college towns miss the mark? Here's our list of the 25 worst college football towns in the United States.
Evanston, Illinois is a north suburb of Chicago, and that right there might be enough to keep this town off the list.
But Chicago, for all of its greatness, isn't known as a college town. With the Bears, White Sox, Cubs, Bulls and Blackhawks, Chi-town has enough professional distractions to keep any sports nut busy.
The fact that Northwestern football hasn't challenged for a Big Ten title in the last decade also hurts Evanston.
If you do make it to a game, make sure you bring something comfortable. Ryan Field is infamous for its sleepy feel and quiet atmosphere.
Our next city is also a professional football city.
However, the presence of the San Diego Chargers isn't the only reason San Diego makes our list.
First, the Aztecs aren't exactly burning up to college football scene, even for a BCS non-AQ program.
Secondly, San Diego State doesn't even have its own facility. Playing your home games in an expansive NFL stadium is okay if you can draw 80,000 fans each game. SDSU can't.
Finally, there's the social disconnect in San Diego and most of southern California.
Mexican immigrants make up a sizable portion of the population in this region, and college football isn't the most popular of sports in this community.
West Lafayette is home to Purdue University.
This small town of 30,000 is located in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, and along with Lafayette, the two cities still fall under 100,000 in population.
While that certainly adds to the distinct college town vibe, if you're looking for something outside of Lafayette to do, you better be prepared to drive hours to do it.
West Lafayette may qualify as a decent college town, but after years of disappointing Saturday results, it's probably not near the top of anyone's list for college football towns. The proof is in the pudding. Tune in to any Purdue game on the Big Ten Network, and you'll notice nearly empty stands by the end of the third quarter.
You almost feel bad for Waco.
Home to Baylor University, most people know this town for one of the most infamous US government raids in modern history.
This city is home to just over 125,000 people, and 15,000-student Baylor University is the biggest game in town, so to speak.
While the Bears have certainly seen some increased on-field success this season, Waco still isn't anywhere near a top college football town—even in their own state of Texas.
It's really not nice to pick on New Orleans, especially since the remarkable progress made since Hurricane Katrina. New Orleanians should be proud of all that has happened in the aftermath of that natural disaster.
That being said, New Orleans really falls short when it comes to college football.
Before all of the LSU fans go nutty, it's important to note that New Orleans is being viewed separately from Baton Rouge, and in that light, there is really only one (or this year, two) important college football games in town each season.
While the Sugar Bowl is an annual draw and easily one of the more important games of any season, the other 364 days of the year the Big Easy isn't considered much of a college football town.
Sorry, Tulane fans, but the few thousand fans in a nearly empty Superdome are an afterthought to most people on any given Saturday in New Orleans. With so many other things to do, it's easy to see why most people pick a trip to the French Quarter over a Tulane football game.
When a city of 30,000 people is also home to a major state university campus with over 21,000 students, you have the perfect mix for a great college town.
Unfortunately, Washington State's futility on the field has created an atmosphere that at best ignores the football team and at worst is interested just to see if the Cougars will lose yet another game.
You might be able to find WSU alumni and fans at every ESPN College GameDay telecast, but that's because they'd rather be in Ann Arbor, Eugene or Morgantown than in Pullman to watch their team lose.
Yes, LA makes our list of worst college football towns.
In reality, the people who should be least shocked should be USC and UCLA fans. Any time there's a city of 3.8 million people, it should be no problem finding 100,000 fans willing to attend a football game—especially in a city that size without an NFL team.
The nation's second-largest city has over 15 million people in the metro area, yet both USC and UCLA have trouble filling their respective home stadiums each Saturday.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons why Angelenos don't come out to watch the Trojans and Bruins, and all are equally valid.
Regardless of the reasons, the result is evident: Los Angeles, even with its status as the largest US city with an FBS team, just isn't a great college football town, plain and simple.
It's one thing to have a bad football team. Losing to Northern Illinois by 23 points will cause most people to shake their heads.
But when your one claim to fame is a rude fanbase, you really have some problems.
It's one thing to support your team, even if that team is no good. But when repeated rumors of spitting on visiting fans continue to pop up, the fanbase earns itself some pretty negative notoriety.
What, consistently coming up short in the WAC wasn't bad enough? You'd think kids smart enough to attend Cal State-Fresno would realize that the combination of rude fans and a failing football team isn't a good thing.
We'll admit that Boba Fett helmets in your school colors is probably one of the coolest things in the history of the galaxy far, far away.
But the question remains, who wants to wear a helmet in 100-degree heat?
Arizona State is experiencing a Renaissance of sorts this season, and it's great for ASU, the Pac-12 and college football in general.
But the location of Arizona State makes for some pretty unpleasant pregame tailgating. If you can cook the burgers on the pavement in the parking lot, it's too darn hot.
When the student newspaper runs an article about how belligerent their own fans are, you know something is wrong.
That's exactly what has happened at Central Florida.
If this kind of thing happened in Ann Arbor, Austin or Tuscaloosa, that would be one thing. Those are great college towns. Orlando is not. Those three towns have great football tradition. Orlando does not.
Sure, Michigan, Texas and Alabama fans may be some of the most arrogant people alive, but when you win as much as those schools do, it's at least understandable.
Central Florida isn't the center of the college football world, but you wouldn't know that by talking to any of their fans. UCF fans, trust us—most visitors to Orlando aren't there for Knights football.
You had to know this one was coming.
After the incredibly full history of the Miami football program's problems, is it any wonder that “The U” is starting to slip into irrelevance in southern Florida?
The rules infractions are bad enough, but add in a losing football team and increasingly empty stands, and you have the recipe for a rapidly declining college football environment.
Texas Tech fans are bad enough. But up until very recently, it was a hassle just to bring your adult refreshments to the tailgating.
Prior to 2009, it was impossible to buy packaged alcohol in Lubbock County. Sure, you could get a glass of beer at the local bar, but buying a 12-pack at the corner liquor store was impossible. There were no liquor stores. Driving to another county just to stock up for your weekend tailgating must have been a real pain.
Then again, with the behavior of Tech fans, maybe no packaged alcohol was a good thing.
There are a lot of things that colleges don't let people do on campus, but not allowing alcohol—even at football tailgating—is one that is going to cost you in any ranking of college football towns.
For the record, there's nothing wrong with abstaining from alcohol. It's forcing others to abstain that leads to Provo's inclusion on this list.
It's en vogue right now to pick on the Gophers. After all, they can't seem to find a win with both hands and a flashlight.
Heck, it doesn't even make the news any more when Minnesota loses to an FCS team (September 24 loss to North Dakota State, 37-24).
Besides a really bad football team, though, Minneapolis is home to some of the most brutally cold weather in the FBS.
In the past, Minnesota played in the relative comfort and warmth of the Metrodome. Now, it's good old-fashioned outdoor Big Ten football in subzero temperatures.
Make sure you bring plenty of hot chocolate to the tailgate.
Ever since NYU boarded up its football program in 1942, many people wrongly believe there isn't any football left at New York's public universities.
The State University of New York at Buffalo proves otherwise. SUNY-Buffalo, more commonly called the University at Buffalo, is home to the Bulls.
No, not the Bills—the Bulls.
Yeah, we get confused sometimes too. How could you not? Heck, most people in Buffalo probably don't know much about the Bulls, so how can you expect anyone who doesn't live there to pay any attention?
Western Michigan University calls Kalamazoo home. If you're not sure where that is, it's an hour southwest of East Lansing, an hour west of Ann Arbor or an hour north of South Bend.
So, from pretty much any direction, it's an hour away from “big-time” college football.
Big-time college football is definitely not a name one can attribute to WMU, though. Last season, Western Michigan averaged fewer than 15,000 fans per home game (14,255). There were only six FBS programs with lower average attendance.
One reason? Most WMU students are from Michigan or the surrounding area. If they grew up as football fans, they already have allegiance to one of the three big programs within an hour of Kalamazoo.
Why sit out in the cold to watch WMU when you can sit in your own living room and watch Michigan, Michigan State or Notre Dame?
If we were talking about hoops, this town wouldn't come close to a “worst college towns” list.
But we're talking football, so Durham definitely makes the list.
Even if it wasn't for the terrible Duke football team, there would still be reasons to put Durham on this list.
First and foremost, Duke basically blackmails its fans into attending games. Like Duke basketball? Want tickets? Then you're going to have to pony up the dough for football season tickets, too. Want a ticket to Duke-UNC? Then you have to buy the premium football season tickets.
That's not right, and it's the reason Duke makes our top 10 worst college football towns.
We picked on Kalamazoo, so it's probably only fair to pick on Mount Pleasant.
First off, if you've ever been there, you'll know that there's no mount, and it's not that pleasant.
Whoever named this town either had a terrible sense of irony or was trying to con someone.
Mount Pleasant is home to two things: Central Michigan University and the largest casino in the state of Michigan.
Imagine you're a student at Central Michigan. It's cold and rainy. You can either go watch your football get walloped by whomever they're playing this week, or you can go spend some quality time at the blackjack tables with your friends.
Since only 20,448 fans, on average, attended CMU home games last season, we know what most people decided to do.
Here's another example of an NFL city where college football just can't compete.
Temple University calls Philadelphia home, and the Owls actually play at Lincoln Financial Field, just like the Philadelphia Eagles.
The difference, of course, is that you can usually divide the Eagles attendance by four to figure out what the Owls draw on any given Saturday.
Even a coach like Al Golden can only take such a program so far. Temple is a fine institution, but it's limited by geography.
At first glance, one might think that there is almost no better place for college football than paradise.
In actuality, it's the complete opposite.
The University of Hawai'i has two distinct disadvantages to becoming a great college football town. First, it's actually located in paradise. Anyone who has ever visited Hawai'i knows exactly what we mean.
The pristine beaches and crystal-blue waters are so inviting that it's hard to even remember what day of the week it is. Before you realize it, Saturday has come and gone.
The second problem with Honolulu is the fact that, unless you live there, it's pretty difficult—and expensive—to get there. It's not exactly a setting that your average alumni can afford to travel to six times every year. You're only going to get so much support from your alumni base. They can't all live in Hawai'i.
You know, we will completely understand if a Bearcats fan wants to admit that it's no fun to be a Cincinnati Bearcats football fan.
First, your program was terrible for a long, long time. It was so bad the university almost threw in the towel.
Then your team finally comes around, wins a few Big East titles and makes it to the BCS—and your coach up and leaves you hanging. You still don't get any respect from that school in Columbus, who won't play you for fear of losing. Apparently it has some fetish about not losing to another team from Ohio.
Finally, if you thought you could at least fall back on your town's NFL team, it turns out the Bengals aren't any good either.
Don't worry, Cincy fans. Basketball season is just around the corner.
Someone has to be the worst.
In the case of college football, New Mexico is making its case to claim that title.
So far in 2011, the Lobos are 0-6. New Mexico has been so bad of late, the university took the unusual and typically inadvisable step of firing its head coach, Mike Locksley, midseason (after Week 4's overtime loss to FCS Sam Houston State).
New Mexico finished 1-11 last season and was 1-11 in 2009 as well. New Mexico hasn't won a conference title since 1964, and it doesn't look like that 47-year streak will be ending any time soon.
So is it any wonder that the city of Albuquerque isn't a prime place to catch a college football game?
For a large university of 35,000 students in a city of over a half million people, you'd think a stadium that holds fewer than 40,000 people would be packed every Saturday.
You'd be wrong.
New Mexico averaged just over 20,000 fans last season. Apparently there are more interesting things to do on a Saturday in Albuquerque than watch one of the worst FBS teams in the nation lose yet another game.
If you're wondering what's in Muncie, you're not alone.
Apparently, that's where Ball State University is. Ball State has the dubious distinction of attracting by far the smallest crowds of any FBS program in 2010. A scant 53,683 combined fans showed up for all of Ball State's home games last season. There were 37 FBS teams that averaged more fans per game last year.
It's just a fact that not every fan who attends the game partakes in pregame and postgame festivities, be they tailgating, partying, parades, band sessions, whatever... So if Ball State averaged 8,947 fans who actually made it into the stadium, how pitiful is the college football atmosphere outside the stadium?
One would think that a city with two FBS programs would have a leg up on everyone else.
When it comes to Houston, Texas, that's not the case.
There are a couple of things hurting Houston. First, Houston is yet another example of a professional sports town with a college team fighting for space on the evening news.
To make matters worse, both of the Houston-based FBS programs—Houston and Rice—are pretty much irrelevant to the national conversation. Neither team is a BCS-busting threat, and their current membership in Conference USA doesn't provide either team with many big-time home games with which to attract attention.
As conference realignment moves forward, it's possible we could see the Cougars in a new conference soon. But the city will still be known more for its professional sports—especially with the return of the NFL—than college football.
We understand that when Eastern Michigan University was founded in 1849, college football fanbases weren't a concern, as the sport didn't even exist.
But in hindsight, there are some real problems to putting another FBS program eight miles away from the University of Michigan.
If the Eagles want any recognition or notice at all, they'll need to be a lights out team. Unfortunately, EMU hasn't exactly been a good program over the past several years. In fact, it's been pretty awful.
This season, the Eagles are a much-improved 4-3, but even that kind of uptick isn't enough to outweigh the massive college football mecca of Ann Arbor.
Poor Ypsi. It's like the unwanted stepchild of Michigan football.