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Attendance at NCAA football games tops 50 million for first time

Gregory Bull/Associated Press
Florida State's win in the national championship game capped a historically successful season for college football.

Ask any college administrator or sports marketer for a list of the most concerning things about college athletics nowadays and you'll probably wind up hearing about attendance issues.

While it's true teams are doing all they can to increase the in-stadium experience to draw people off their couch and onto campuses for games, recently released numbers show concerns over attendance at college football games is not as bad as many think. In fact, the 2013 season was a record-setting one in a number of attendance categories.

NCAA football (that's all divisions, from FBS to D-III) attendance topped 50 million for the first time in history, per the National Football Foundation. Although growth at the lower levels of the sport was notable, al.com points out that returning FBS schools posted a one-percent increase in crowds to help lead the record-setting season.

The SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 all ended up setting overall attendance records last season. Not surprisingly, the SEC led the way in most categories. Michigan took home the individual title for the 16th straight year after averaging 111,592 fans per home game.

Thanks in part to a BCS title game appearance at the Rose Bowl, Auburn had the most fans see a football game involving the Tigers with 1,204,185 folks watching Guz Malzahn's squad in 2013.

The NFL is home to America's most popular sport, but it's clear that college football's popularity is way up there, too. TV is one area where that was remarkably evident as every major network college-football package saw viewership increase. In all, more than 216 million people tuned in to watch a regular-season game and the five BCS games alone saw viewership go up nine percent.

Bowl-game attendance was down slightly from the high-water mark set in 2010, but BCS games noticed a 3.2 percent uptick from the previous season.

Also, some 52 percent of all American adults count themselves as an NCAA football fan, according to the release. With the move to an actual, real, honest-to-goodness college football playoff in 2014, that's a number that probably will go up again after the season.

There are plenty of facts and figures to check out in the foundation's full release here.

We all know the NFL is the sports king, but the latest attendance and viewership numbers show its little brother, college football, isn't too shabby.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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