football-fbs flag | February 3, 2014

Attendance tops 50 million, sets records

Football attendance topped 50 million for the first time in 2013 as the number of NCAA schools playing the sport continued to grow.

The 657 schools in the NCAA who sponsor football (13 more than in 2012) drew 50,291,275 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason contests last season to break the mark of 49,699,419 set in 2011.

With an average of 45,671 per game, the Football Bowl Subdivision drew a record 38,135,118 fans. The Football Championship Subdivision totaled 6,238,740 fans, while Division II attracted 2,985,610 spectators. Division III also recorded an all-time high with 2,465,231 total fans.

The Southeastern Conference, which led all FBS conferences in average attendance for the past 16 seasons, enjoyed another record-setting year. The SEC set an all-time, all-conference record of 7,567,406 fans in 2013.

Michigan’s average of 111,592 fans at its seven home contests led the nation for its 16th consecutive attendance title.

Two other programs also topped the 100,000 mark: Ohio State at 104,933; and the Alabama at 101,505.

Other highlights

• The SEC attendance averaged 75,674 per game to lead all conferences. The Big Ten (70,431), Big 12 (58,899), Pac-12 (53,619) and Atlantic Coast (49,982) rounded out the top five in conference attendance;

• Seven FBS and FCS conferences set records for total attendance. The FBS conferences were the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC. The FCS conferences were the Missouri Valley Football, Big Sky and Pioneer Football League;

• The FBS postseason featured 35 bowl games that totaled 1,714,617 spectators for an average of 48,989 fans per contest;

• As for NCAA championship tournaments, total attendance for the FCS tournament was 184,279 for an average of 8,012 in 23 playoff games. The Division II tournament totaled 76,871 fans for an average of 3,342 in 23 games. The Division III tournament had 64,781 total fans for an average of  2,090 in 31 games.

• Michigan, the first school to average more than 100,000 a game (in 1976), has captured the attendance title 44 times since 1949, including 38 since 1974.

• For all-game attendance -- including home, road and neutral-site games -- Auburn led all schools with 1,204,185 fans watching the Tigers during 14 games. Thirteen teams played in front of more than one million fans this season.

• Five FBS programs enjoyed an increase of more than 8,000 fans per game versus 2012. Leading the way was Washington, which reopened Husky Stadium after a 21-month renovation project. With the renovated stadium opening in August, Washington drew an average of 10,153 more fans per game from 2012 to '13. The Huskies were followed by Kentucky (9,781), Buffalo (9,495), Akron (8,575) and Pittsburgh (8,247).

• Appalachian State led FCS attendance for the sixth time in seven years with an average of 24,894 fans per game. Other schools averaging more than 20,000 fans a game were Montana (24,380), James Madison (21,011) and Southern University (20,107).

• Among FCS conferences, the Southwestern Athletic Conference earned its 35th attendance title in 36 years. The 10 SWAC programs averaged 12,415 fans per game and totaled 682,841 spectators. The Southern Conference (592,778 fans for an average of 11,623), the Missouri Valley Football Conference (664,775 fans for an average of 10,722) and the Colonial Athletic Association (665,260 fans for an average of 10,395) were all close behind.

• In Division II, Tuskegee captured its seventh attendance title in the past 16 years by averaging 14,954 fans per game. The two other schools that averaged more than 10,000 per game were Grand Valley State (10,116) and Pittsburg State (10,030).

• The Lone Star Conference posted its fifth Division II attendance title and first since 1989. The conference averaged 6,599 fans. The Gulf South was next at 5,399 fans per game. The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which posted 20 attendance titles in the previous 21 years, finished third at 5,308 spectators per game.

• In Division III, St. John’s (Minn.) took the top spot with its 12th title in 13 years with an average of 7,364 fans per game. In 2011, Hampden-Sydney stopped a run of 10 consecutive attendance titles by St. John’s. In 2013, the rest of the top five were Geneva (5,358), Wisconsin-Whitewater (5,063), Bethel (Minn.) (4,757) and Christopher Newport (4,680).

• Also in Division III, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Conference won its eighth title in nine years with 3,343 fans per game. The American Southwest Conference finished second with an average of 3,210 fans per game. Third place went to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Conference at 2,953 spectators per game. The Old Dominion Athletic Conference finished fourth by averaging 2,593 fans per game.

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