Fields of (amateur) dreams: the 22 US college football teams with crowds bigger than the NFL average

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By Nick Harris

9 February 2010

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The enthusiastic feedback to the publication yesterday of sportingintelligence’s updated list of most popular domestic (professional) sports leagues in the world has prompted us to look at the absolutely extraordinary numbers of fans who watch college football in the USA. (See graphic at bottom).

The NFL average attendance in the 2010-11 regular season was 66,960, which is by far the biggest average of any domestic pro sports league in the world, ahead of the AFL (Aussie Rules) in Australia and the Bundesliga (original football) in Germany.

And yet there are two leagues (conferences) in US College football with bigger 2010 averages than the NFL: the Southeastern and the Big Ten. And there are six conferences with bigger 2010 averages than the Bundesliga. (Details in lower section of graphic below).

Michigan Stadium. Pic: A Horne

Not only that, but there are 22 US college football teams, from the Michigan Wolverines to the Arkansas Razorbacks, who had bigger average attendances in 2010 than the NFL average.

Full details are in the table below but those 22 teams occupy some of the biggest stadiums in the world, with the Michigan Stadium (left, capacity 109,901, Wolverines 2010 average, 111,825) at No3 in the world behind North Korea’s May Day Stadium in Pyongyang (capacity 150,000) and the Yuva Bharati Krirangan Stadium in Kolkata (120,000).

Five US College teams in 2010 had average home crowds of more than 100,000 people per game. That is, frankly, astonishing, as are some of the capacity crowd pictures at the top half-dozen teams by biggest average (click on names below for images).

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Michigan Stadium

Penn State

Ohio

Alabama

Texas

Tennessee

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(With thanks to polymath and sometime fellow quizzer Jonathan Wilson for a re-tweet that started a Twitter and email debate; and to Josh Miller who pointed us in the direction of the NCAA football attendance stats).

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