Power 5 Schools with the Biggest Gains and Losses in Stadium Attendance

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystJuly 24, 2015

Texas A&M's Kyle Field
Texas A&M's Kyle FieldDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

Attendance at major college football games is either booming or busting—the answer depends on which programs you ask.

Thanks to high ticket prices and the growing number of high-definition broadcasts for nearly every game, more fans are deciding to stay out of the stadiums. According to the NCAA, average attendance for FBS games declined from the 2013 to 2014 season.

But even during this slide in crowd numbers, several schools are still expanding their stadiums and smashing attendance records due to higher fan interest and long sellout streaks.

Here are the 10 Power 5 programs that had the largest improvements in average attendance from 2013 to 2014—and the 10 that saw the biggest drops in crowd numbers last season. Major independents BYU and Notre Dame, due to their comparable crowd sizes, were eligible for this list.

The average attendance numbers here are from the NCAA's official releases in 2013 and 2014. As Jon Solomon of CBS Sports wrote in his analysis of 2014's results, these figures "represent the announced crowd totals schools reported to the NCAA and not necessarily actual attendance."  

A record-breaking crowd of 110,633 fans attended Texas A&M's home game against Ole Miss in 2014.
A record-breaking crowd of 110,633 fans attended Texas A&M's home game against Ole Miss in 2014.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Biggest Gains

1. Texas A&M (+17,988 fans): Kyle Field added nearly 24,000 seats to its capacity during the first phase of a $450 million renovation project. A reported crowd of 110,633 fans attended the Aggies' home game against then-No. 3 Ole Miss, which was the largest attendance for a football game in the history of the SEC and the entire state of Texas. A&M's average crowd count will make an expected drop this season, though, as the capacity of the completely renovated Kyle Field will just be 102,512.

2. LSU (+10,305): Another SEC West team expanded its stadium between the 2013 and 2014 seasons as LSU's "Death Valley" added nearly 10,000 seats to bring its official capacity to 102,321. According to Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com, another factor in LSU's big gain was a change in how the athletic department counted attendance by including non-admission attendees.

Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press/Associated Press

3. Florida State (+6,790): Florida State didn't add any seats to Doak Campbell Stadium, but it still got a big-time boost in average attendance following its 2013 national championship season. Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston and the rest of the Seminoles benefited from having their three biggest regular-season draws—Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida—all at home in 2014.

4. UCLA (+6,365): According to the program's website, UCLA broke its all-time attendance record with an average of 76,650 fans at the Rose Bowl in 2014. A major factor in the big gain here was a crazy-good home schedule that included matchups against Oregon, Arizona, Stanford and rival USC.

5. Maryland (+5,703): Maryland's move from the ACC to the Big Ten paid off in terms of attendance last season. According to Alex Kirshner of SB Nation's Testudo Times, four of the Terps' six games at Byrd Stadium had more than 50,000 fans in attendance—and Maryland had only one such game in their last four years of ACC play.

6. Mississippi State (+5,432): Stadium expansion was a strong theme in the SEC West last season as Mississippi State opened the doors to a renovated, 61,337-seat Davis Wade Stadium. The famous cowbells reached new levels of noise in October, when No. 3 Mississippi State knocked off No. 2 Auburn in front of a school-record crowd of 62,945 fans.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

7. Penn State (+5,036): In James Franklin's first season at Penn State, Beaver Stadium's average attendance moved back over the 100,000-fan mark to 101,623. Franklin's team had a pair of huge home games in Big Ten play to help those numbers—a White Out double overtime game against eventual national champion Ohio State and a season finale against conference powerhouse Michigan State.

8. Arkansas (+4,925): Arkansas fans came out in bigger numbers for the Razorbacks' return to the postseason after two losing campaigns. Five of Arkansas' six regular-season wins came in Fayetteville, including back-to-back shutout victories over SEC West rivals LSU and Ole Miss.

9. Tennessee (+4,170): The Volunteers fell just shy of a 100,000-fan average last season as they made their own return to a bowl game. However, they did play four games in front of sellout crowds as the Rocky Top faithful packed Neyland Stadium for the matchups against Utah State, Florida, Alabama and Kentucky.

10. Rutgers (+4,083): The 10th and final team to raise its average attendance by more than 4,000 fans last season, Rutgers saw an increase in crowds with its own move to the Big Ten. The school, which has been playing home football games since 1869, set its attendance record with 53,774 for the Big Ten opener against Penn State.

Purdue's average home attendance dropped a staggering 28 percent in the 2014 season.
Purdue's average home attendance dropped a staggering 28 percent in the 2014 season.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Biggest Losses

1. Purdue (-13,684): After an ugly 1-11 season in 2013, Purdue's attendance took an extreme nosedive in 2014. The average crowd of 35,269 was the smallest at Ross-Ade Stadium since 1951, and the year's smallest attendance (30,117) came in its final home game of the season against Northwestern. According to Mike Carmin of USA Today, Purdue responded by lowering 2015 season ticket prices for nearly 90 percent of its seats.

2. Pittsburgh (-8,606): Pittsburgh had crowds of less than 40,000 for its final two home games of 2014, which dented the Panthers' average attendance. This followed a 2013 season in which they averaged nearly 50,000. Heinz Field only had 32,549 in the stands for the ACC game against Syracuse—one that the Panthers needed to win in order to keep their bowl hopes alive.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 30: General view of the stadium as the Virginia Cavaliers play against the UCLA Bruins at Scott Stadium on August 30, 2014 in Charlottesville, Virginia. UCLA defeated Virginia 28-20. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

3. Virginia (-6,959): Even though the Cavaliers improved their record by three wins last season, their attendance numbers took some hard losses. According to David Teel of the Daily Press, Virginia's average home crowd of 39,320 was the lowest in 21 years. Several factors could have been in play here, including an oversaturation of five home games in six weeks, a four-game losing streak and growing frustration with head coach Mike London.

4. Arizona State (-5,510): While Arizona State posted its second consecutive 10-win season last year and was ranked during each of its home games, the attendance still dropped at Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State had only one sellout—a win against Notre Dame—on a schedule in which the only other marquee game was a Thursday night one against UCLA.

5. Texas (-4,873): A head coaching change to Charlie Strong didn't put more Texas fans in the seats last season—it did the opposite. And things could get worse for attendance after a rebuilding 6-7 season. Texas athletic director Steve Patterson came under fire this offseason when Chip Brown of Horns Digest reported an average increase in season ticket prices of 21.5 percent, instead of the 6 percent Texas announced.

6. Oklahoma State (-4,739): Oklahoma State's attendance suffered from a lack of big-time home games and a rough losing streak in 2014. The Cowboys only drew 52,495 fans for their matchup against Texas, which was the fourth of what would be five straight losses late in the season. Oklahoma State had to travel to TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma last year, but will get all three at home in 2015.

7. Washington (-4,261): After Washington had the nation's biggest attendance increase in 2013, the Huskies lost an average of more than 4,000 fans in 2014. The Huskies had an additional nonconference game in their 2014 schedule, and three straight weeks of Eastern Washington, Illinois and Georgia State definitely affected the final numbers.

8. BYU (-4,084): Independent school BYU will get lumped in with the big boys here, but not in a way its fans would like to see. According to Alex Clark of The Universe, BYU's home attendance hit its lowest mark since 1981 thanks to a number of factors, including a weak slate of opponents and the season-ending injury to star quarterback Taysom Hill.

LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 11:  A general view of Memorial Stadium during a game between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Kansas Jayhawks on October 11, 2014 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

9. Kansas (-3,807): The sights on the field were rough for Kansas for most of 2014, and that extended to the stands. Average attendance dropped to 34,077—almost 16,000 less than the capacity at Memorial Stadium—for the Jayhawks as they experienced their sixth straight losing season.

10. Iowa State (-3,164): Heading into the 2013 season, Iowa State was riding on the momentum of back-to-back bowl appearances and some of its largest crowds in school history, according to Paul Myerberg of USA Today. That did not last. Iowa State fell in attendance for the second straight year and sat at an average of 52,197, during what was a 2-10 season for the Cyclones.

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.