The 2010 College Football Attendance Rankings

By Alex Koenig

Earlier in the week I looked at trends in college football attendance, assessing the effect of a variety of factors on fan attendance from 2008 to 2010. Trends may be more telling than individual cases, but in college football bragging rights are what fans covet most. Whether it’s a win in a rivalry game or landing a star recruit, you can hold your school’s football successes over your buddies’ heads for upwards of a year. One thing that often comes into question is whose alma mater has a better fan base. While this question is too complicated, and subjective, to be addressed quantitatively, attendance numbers express fan loyalty and enthusiasm in a pretty objective way. Find out how your school stacked up in 2010 in a variety of categories below.


The Best in Each Conference (as % of capacity, not raw attendance)

ACC                        Virginia Tech      100.00%               66,233/game

Big 10                    Ohio State             102.88%             105,278/game

Big 12                     Texas Tech          106.20%               57,108/game

Big East                Cincinnati             100.19%                  35,067/game

CUSA                     East Carolina          99.33%               49,665/game

Indy’s                    Notre Dame         100.00%              80,795/game

MAC                       Ohio                           79.36%               19,046/game

Mtn. West            Utah                         100.98%              45,459/game

Pac 10                   Oregon                    110.00%              59,398/game

SEC                         Alabama                  110.51%            101,821/game

Sun Belt                Florida Intl.             82.72%              16,545/game

WAC                       Boise State             103.96%              33,269/game

Top 5 Private Schools

  1. Notre Dame                       100.00%              80,795/game
  2. Wake Forest                         96.74%               30,474/game
  3. Brigham Young                   95.84%                61,381/game
  4. Texas Christian                   95.74%                42,466/game
  5. Boston College                     86.22%               38,369/game

Top 5 Public Schools

  1. Alabama                                 110.51%               101,821/game
  2. Oregon                                    110.00%                59,398/game
  3. Texas Tech                            106.20%                57,108/game
  4. Nebraska                                105.67%               85,664/game
  5. Boise State                         103.96%                33,269/game

Top 5 Non-Bowl Teams

  1. Texas                                     100.53%               100,654/game
  2. Cincinnati                            100.19%                  35,067/game
  3. Oregon State                         99.64%                   45,509/game
  4. Houston                                  99.15%                   31,728/game
  5. Minnesota                             99.03%                   49,513/game

Top 5 Non-BCS Schools (Notre Dame also excluded)

  1. Boise State                         103.96%                33,269/game
  2. Utah                                      100.98%               45,459/game
  3. East Carolina                        99.33%               49,665/game
  4. Houston                                  99.15%               31,728/game
  5. Navy                                        96.04%               32,653/game

Top 5 Schools with Pro Teams in the Area

  1. Utah                                      100.98%                  45,459/game
  2. Cincinnati                           100.19%                  35,067/game
  3. Houston                                  99.15%                 31,728/game
  4. Minnesota                              99.03%                 49,513/game
  5. NC State                                  98.77%                 56,877/game

Top 5 Schools in Raw Numbers

  1. Michigan                              111,825/game
  2. Ohio State                           105,278/game
  3. Penn State                          104,234/game
  4. Alabama                              101,821/game
  5. Texas                                    100,654/game

Top 5 Small School Big City (Citizen to Student Ratio above 100)

  1. Houston                      99.15%               31,728/game                189.09 ratio
  2. Wake Forest              96.74%              30,474/game                108.34 ratio
  3. Navy                             96.04%              32,653/game                115.75 ratio
  4. Texas Christian        95.74%              42,466/game                690.43 ratio
  5. Washington                91.40%              66,264/game                105.99 ratio

How’d your team stack up? If there are any categories you think I should add or are curious about, leave a comment and I’ll try – within reason – to update the post.


Small City Large Stadium Ranking (Ratio of Stadium Size to Urban Pop. greater than 0.5)

@ The Request of Piney Woods


1. Georgia (Athens, GA)                               100.00%       0.50 ratio

92,746 cap.                 185,479 pop.

2. Mississippi State (Starkville, MS)           99.85%        1.32 ratio

55,082 cap.                    41,633 pop.

3. Oregon State (Corvallis, OR)                    99.64%        0.58 ratio

45,674 cap.                    79,061 pop.

4. Auburn (Auburn, AL)                                 98.44%       0.69 ratio

87,451 cap.                  125,781 pop.

5. Penn State (University Park, PA)           97.16%       0.76 ratio

107,282 cap.               140,943 pop.

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  • How about Small City / Big Stadium? It seems that would be a measure of fan support … There are High School stadiums the size of Wake Forest and Navy’s … to pack 85k into a stadium when the surrounding city is only 50k is noteworthy and driven by a good fan base, no?

    • That’s a good point. There are 13 schools in which the surrounding metropolitan area is less than twice the maximum capacity of the stadium. These schools are:

      Mississippi State
      Oklahoma State
      Penn State
      Iowa State
      Oregon State
      Louisiana Tech
      West Virginia

      I’ll update the article with their rankings shortly

      • If I’m reading your criteria correctly you have left Texas A&M off the small city/large stadium list. College Station population 86,480. Kyle Field capacity 86,128. However Bryan-College Stations population is 155,876 but still meets your criteria. Scott

    • Thanks for reading. The attendance numbers are based upon the game attendance from every game between 2006 and 2010. The stadium sizes, are similarly from what is reported by the schools to full capacity. I say reported by the schools because quite a few schools end up having more than 100% capacity (which should be impossible, but is actually a relatively common phenomena across sports). The Undergraduate populations are from each school’s website and/or from the conference websites and the “metro population” is based upon the metropolitan statistical areas (as of 2009) for each school’s campus. I compiled the database for another project which I linked to at the top of the article, but I thought giving rankings – without much statistical analysis – might be appreciated by fans of various schools.

      • not sure where you got your numbers for Louisville. The stadium expanded to 56,000 for the 2010 season and was at 42k before that. So the 120 percent capacity number would appear to be off.

        • Thanks for reading. I just checked my database and for some reason – probably just negligence on my part – I hadn’t marked the expansion in the 2010 season and instead had the 120% attendance as a function of the previous 42,000 capacity. Louisville’s attendance in 2010 was instead 90.44%

  • Is there any way to account for stadiums whose seating is significantly less than “capacity?” For instance, I know that Iowa State’s stadium has about 43,000 seats, but significant standing-room-only seating allows us to pack 55,000 plus into the stadium. Our official listed capacity is 55,000 in order to look more competitive with other schools in the Big XII. If you don’t include standing-room-only seating, our average attendance in 2010 was 45,395 according to ESPN. So we’re averaging ~2400 more people than actual stadium seats, yet we get an 82.6% capacity rating because we overrate our stadium.

    Here’s the Jack Trice Stadium website:

    • 45395/43000 = 105.6% of seating, which puts us close to Texas Tech for best %capacity in the Big XII, and easily the best %capacity for BCS non-bowl teams.

      Our record attendance is 56,795 against the University of Northern Iowa, which is 132.1% of seating. It also helps to confirm your ideas in the later post about playing local FCS teams in the non-conference schedule to increase attendance early in the year.

      • Thanks for reading. That’s interesting about Iowa State’s standing room only seating – and is something that probably occurs at a lot of schools. I used the official “capacity” numbers from the schools which, as both you and I pointed out, can be slightly fudged to fit what the athletic department is trying to promote (i.e. attendance above 100% or stadiums that aren’t as big as they say they are). As far as accounting for that, the only problem would be finding all the schools where this is true. Even in the link you shared, the fact that 12,000 of the “seats” aren’t actually seats is somewhat glossed over and so finding these alterations for all 119 teams would both take a long time and probably not alter the results too significantly.

        Are you sure that the number you found (45,395) is without including standing-room only seats? Because in the official NCAA report I found the same number, without a distinction of it being “pure” so to speak.

        The attendance numbers for local FCS teams are really quite amazing, and something I didn’t really expect coming into this, and the Northern Iowa game, as you said, just confirms that.

        • I realized about 30 seconds after I posted I had made a typo, and that the 45395 figure did include the standing room only seating, but didn’t see any way to edit my post. Obviously the 45395 includes every person in the stadium, whether they are sitting on a bleacher seat or on our grassy hillsides.

          I figured that the actual seating vs. capacity info would be difficult to find, but didn’t know if someone like the NCAA might have a list of stadium seating sizes. I certianly didn’t intend for you to sort through all of that yourself 🙂

        • Look at Iowa State now.. they are almost to that 55k mark with a new home record at a sellout 56,800 against K – State this year. Iowa State has averaged over 53,000 in the Paul Rhoads era and have official plans of bowling in their south end zone.
          I am using this article on how talent of teams may higher or lower attendance. Miami (FL) is a perfect example.

  • Another quick note that may need to be accounted for (it’s nearly 5am and I may be out of it, so keep that in mind):

    Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa expanded their stadium starting this past season (2010). That made the official attendance over 101,000 seats (the capacity since 2006 was a little over 92,000).

  • For the 2010 season what was the average attendance overall? I can’t find it. I need to see if it was up or down from last year,

    • The average attendance in 2010 was 44,266 (79.97%). In 2009 it was 43,618 (78.93%) and in 2008 it was 44,466 (80.68%) so even though it went up a little bit from last year it’s staying at around the same mean

      • Thanks so much!!! I looked at all those figures and thought “Oh hell, I’m going to have to calcute this on my own!” Got the others from the NCAA site, just working on a project that involves “fan experience” at college football stadiums – what do fans expect and want they want.

  • When you say – 2010 was 44,266 (79.97%) etc. Does that mean 79.97% of all the stadiums were filled to capacity on average each game day or the average stadium fan attendance was on average 79.97% each game. Thanks.

  • Do you have a link or a list of every school? I would be curious to see the list for the FBS schools and their average capacity. I would greatly appreciate it.

  • Alex,

    Great read, I had a few questions, especially in terms of all the realignment talk across the country.

    1) In realignment it will be about money, so percentages will skew data with false data. Case in point would be Wake Forrest / Boise State vs Ohio State / Alabama and their relative values in realignment. For the sake of the ease of calculations and parity I will set a “constant” single ticket price of 50, and round school attendance to rounded numbers, so it looks something like this:

    Ohio State = 105,000 x $ 50 = $ 5,250,000
    Alabama = 102,000 x $ 50 = $ 5,100,000
    Boise State = 33,000 x $ 50 = $ 1,650,000
    Wake Forrest = 30,000 x $ 50 = $ 1,500,000

    While Ohio State / Alabama / Boise State / Wake Forrest all have high attendance numbers by %, the top 2 have about $ 3,500,000 per game separation in added value. In the modern world money is the root of realignment in the first place. Perhaps a high weighted value in factoring real end value of the attendance numbers.

    2) How do you factor in “sold” tickets vs actual paid attendance that passes through the gates to attend an event. I have been to many “sold out” events, that once inside revealed multiple patches of empty seating. If you attend a Final Four game that supposedly sets attendance records, only to see the empty seats, it must skew numbers to not reflect actual on site numbers.

    3) How do you deal with reflective success on attendance? Sure a team may be at / exceed capacity when the team has an 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 win season, but I have argued for quite some time on the value of a team that can stay close to capacity when they are winning 1 – 4 games a season. I bring this up with 2 schools in particular. South Carolina had 1 win in 2 seasons, but the fans still showed up. Kentucky has never been good, yet they seem to be in the top 25 in attendance the past few years in spite of this. Both schools have discussed adding 10,000 + seats to their stadiums based on demand even when the team is not playing well on the field. Contrast Kansas, Indiana, Duke, and others in their respective conferences on the lack of such ability.

    4) The effect of attendance when there is a pro team in the city, or competitive college team in cities within 1 – 2 hours drive?

    5) can you provide links for your source data for each of the years you studied?

    It looks like there is a pecking order in average attendance.

    ELITE = B1G / SEC ==> 100,000 +/-
    GOOD = IND ==> 80,000+/-
    AVERAGE = ACC / PAC / B12 = 60,000 +/-
    FAIR = CUSA / MWC / BE / WAC = 40,000 +/-
    POOR = MAC / SB = 20,000 +/-

  • I think you may have erred on the list of schools with nearby pro teams. If this is football only, then Utah and NC State don’t belong, as neither school is located anywhere near an NFL franchise. If you mean pro anything, including the NBA and NHL, then as Ohio State plays in an NHL city it should be included, and maybe Oklahoma as well, depending on your definition of “in the area” (20 miles from Norman to Oklahoma City).

  • Is there a way to get the entire list? I am having a major debate with a friend about B1G schools vs Big XII schools and this info would be spectacular to have.

  • I’ve heard that Alabama only give the attendance figures for the amount of tickets sold for actuall seats, whereas other teams also include the people who are working the games into their attendance figures to bloat their numbers! I think this is evident by the fact that Alabama’s attendance figures are the same for every game @ 101,821, whereas most other schools attendance figures fluctuate from game to game. Is there any way to get Alabama’s attendance figures if you add in the people who work the games? If so, I’m sure it would make a significant difference in there rating. FYI, Alabama’s seating capacity is 101,821 after the latest expansion, which would be 100% capacity not 110.51%.

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