NCAA men’s basketball saw a slight decrease in overall attendance for the 2015-16 season as 32,382,283 fans came to watch student-athletes in Divisions I, II and III.
Compared with last year, the overall average per game dipped 25 fans per game, but 2015-16 is the 10th-highest attendance in NCAA history. The record of 33,396,316 fans in a single season was set in 2007-08.
In Division I, attendance totaled 27,234,610 for the year. Although it was down slightly from a season ago, the attendance is the 10th-highest total in history. The 2015-16 NCAA tournament total attendance once again topped the 700,000 mark with 703,854. The record-setting total of 800,377 came in 2012-13.
The Big Ten Conference once again led the way among conferences with a home and conference tournament total of 3,105,265. The all-time record of 3,259,992 was set by the 16-team Big East Conference in 2006-07.
The University of Kentucky dethroned Syracuse University for the home attendance title after the Orange had won in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015. The Wildcats averaged 23,361 while the Orange brought in 21,592 a game. Kentucky led the nation the previous eight seasons. The University of Louisville was third with 20,859 per game and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, was fourth with 18,326. The University of Maryland, College Park, topped the nation with an increase of 5,169 more fans per game in 2015-16 to finish in the top five with an average of 17,863.
“It was a tremendous season for all three divisions of college basketball,” said Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships. “You always want great endings and that’s exactly what we had this year. In Division III, it was St. Thomas (Minnesota) ending a bid by Benedictine (Illinois) to be an undefeated national champion, and in Division II, Augustana (South Dakota) edged Lincoln Memorial in a game featuring teams that combined for 68 wins. Then, of course, the Division I championship featured a terrific game between Villanova and North Carolina, with what very well could be a once-in-a-generation conclusion. That put a bow on what was a memorable season for tens of millions of college basketball fans across the country.”
Other attendance highlights include:
- The state of Kentucky captured the top two spots in the nation in total home attendance as Kentucky placed first with 397,148 fans at its games this season at Rupp Arena. Placing second was Louisville (396,333), while Syracuse placed third (367,068).
- A total of 43 schools averaged more than 10,000 fans per game, including 11 from the Big Ten.
- The Big Ten also led all conferences in average attendance with 12,555 fans, ahead of the Southeastern Conference (11,144), Atlantic Coast Conference (11,131), Big 12 Conference (10,124) and Big East Conference (9,595). It marks the 40th consecutive season the Big Ten has led the nation in average attendance.
- There were 23 schools that had an increase of more than 1,000 fans from the 2014-15 season, led by the Maryland Terrapins, who saw attendance increase by 5,169 fans a game from 12,694 in 2014-15 to 17,863 in 2015-16.
- North Carolina led the nation in overall attendance as 781,614 fans saw the Tar Heels play at home, on the road and in neutral sites. Kentucky was second with 694,871, and Syracuse placed third with 682,039.
- Division II attendance increased again in 2015-16 as 12,038 more fans attended games from a season ago for a total of 2,797,421.
- For the ninth consecutive year, Northern State University led Division II in attendance with 3,346 fans per game. Augustana University (South Dakota) was second (2,726), Midwestern State University was third (2,553), University of Nebraska at Kearney was fourth (2,539), and fifth place went to Fort Hays State University (2,471).
- For Division II conferences, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association had the highest home attendance average for the seventh consecutive year with an average of 1,419. The Lone Star Conference (1,267), the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (1,200) and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1,112) also averaged more than 1,000 fans per game.
- For the 14th consecutive year, Hope College led Division III in attendance with an average of 2,638. Augustana College (Illinois) was second (1,757), The College of Wooster was third (1,464), Calvin College came in fourth (1,433), and Marietta College rounded out the top five (1,243).
- Among Division III conferences, after losing the attendance title last year, the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin reclaimed the top spot with an average of 875 fans per game. The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the leader 23 of the past 25 years, placed second by one individual per game (874).