What Factors Contribute to College Football Attendance?

What Factors Contribute to College Football Attendance?

Submitted by MGoShoe on January 17th, 2011 at 2:02 PM

H/T Yostal via his hooverstreet Twitter feed.

Pretty interesting article by Alex Koenig of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective outlining the results of a study on the factors that drive college football attendance. They are:

  1. Sustained winning (obviously)
  2. Being a BCS school (positive)
  3. Undergraduate population (more is better)
  4. Large City population and the presence of pro teams (negative)
  5. Being a public school (positive even though private schools have a slightly higher winning percentage (+1%))

These factors aren't especially surprising, but as we know, in spite of a very rough stretch over the past three years, Michigan Stadium attendance has held strong. In fact, Michigan is one of only three BCS schools who have maintained near capacity (or in Michigan's case, above capacity) football attendance while achieving a sub-.500 winning percentage (over the last three seasons). Specifically:

The driving force behind big ticket sales is generally a compelling and successful team. Between 2008 and 2010 the average NCAA stadium was filled to 79.95% capacity – about 44,000 fans. However, teams that had winning seasons in that same time period drew crowds of around 53,000 (88.19%) – an 8% jump in attendance.

Not surprisingly, losing has a similar effect on fan support. Teams that dropped below .500 played in front of crowds that weren’t even ¾ full, with an average stadium being filled to 70.5% capacity. The negative publicity that comes with losing continued to hurt teams the next year. Despite averaging win% hikes of 8%, teams coming off a losing season saw their attendance numbers drop to 69.7%. The lesson here is twofold: 1. winning helps as much as losing hurts; and 2. it usually takes a year for positive results on the field to be reflected with positive results in the stands. 

Teams that have performed below .500 and maintained good attendance (2008-10)


36.1 Wpct

0 weeks in top-25

92.7% cap.

Kansas State

48.5 Wpct

0 weeks in top-25

94.5% cap.


40.2 Wpct

0 top-5 conf. finishes

102.2% cap.

The study aslo provided a pretty interesting set of data on the success (attendance and winning) of BCS and non-BCS schools when hosting BCS, non-BCS and FCS schools: 

Cost-Benefit relationship for non-conference games

BCS-Conference Schools

Host BCS

94.5% capacity (+3.01%)

48.0%Wpct (-8.69%)

Host Non-BCS

89.6% capacity (-2.03%)

87.8%Wpct (+31.1%)

Host FCS

86.7% capacity (-4.9%)

94.5%Wpct (+37.8%)

Non-BCS Conference Schools

Host BCS

85.3% capacity (+19.4%)

34.4%Wpct (-11.4%)

Host Non-BCS

71.8% capacity (+5.9%)

55.0%Wpct (+9.2%)

Host FCS

66.9% capacity (+1.0%)

89.5%Wpct (+43.7%)

Difference from season averages are in parentheses