For the sixth straight year, average attendance at FBS home games dipped below 46,000. Attendance in 2014 dropped 4% from 2013, and registered its lowest average since 2000 when it hit 42,631, according to CBS Sports. Attendance hits its zenith in 2008, when an average of 46,456 fans attended games.
CBS based its estimates on home games, ignoring neutral sites. The data relied on figures supplied by the schools, which, given mandatory attendance requirements to remain in good standing in the FBS, may be somewhat inflated.
Ohio State pushed Michigan aside as the nation’s leader in attendance after Michigan had ruled the roost 16 straight years. The Buckeyes averaged 106,296 fans while the Wolverines (104,909), suffering through a 5-7 season, plunged to third place behind Texas A&M (105,123).
Roughly three-quarters (72%) of the top 25 attendance leaders, who all came from Power Five conferences along with Notre Dame, either maintained their attendance or increased it. Almost half (48%) of the other Power Five schools did the same.
Of the Power Five schools, the big attendance-increase winners were Texas A&M (21%), Maryland (14%), LSU (11%), Mississippi State (10%), Rutgers (9%), Florida State (9%), and UCLA (9%). The big losers were Purdue (28%), Pittsburgh (17%), Virginia (15%), Kansas (10%), Arizona State (9%), and Oklahoma State (8%).
Texas, Florida, and Michigan all had off-seasons, triggering a drop in attendance. Texas has fallen 8% since the school won the national championship in 2009. Florida fell under 90,000 for the fourth straight year after consistently reaching that level. Michigan has declined 7% in the last two years.
Among the conferences, the SEC boasted the highest attendance, averaging 78,018 fans. The Big Ten dropped from 70,431 last year to 66,939, in 2014; the addition of Maryland and Rutgers hurt the conference’s attendance figures. The Big 12 dipped 1% to 57,624 fans per game. The Pac 12 plunged 2% to 52,758 fans per game. The ACC, actually increased its attendance 1% to 50,016, although it ranks last among the five conferences.
The Wall Street Journal reported in August that average student attendance at college football games had plummeted 7.1% since 2009, and declined 5.6% at colleges in the five richest conferences. The Journal asserted that the dwindling number of students at college games derived from rising ticket prices, more lopsided games, less games pitting traditional rivals against each other, and the growing number of televised games.