When we think about “winning” in college football, a few things come to mind. From an individual player perspective, it’s all about who’s got the best chance at achieving greatness. From a team standpoint, the focus will always center on which squads will most likely take home a national championship. These are the obvious choices. But, truth be told, they are far from the only ways to acknowledge a victory in college football.
There are college football fans, and then there are college football fans. The latter individuals are the ones who feel a deep connection to their teams; they take the sport more seriously than most; they always refer to their squad as “we”; and they do whatever it takes to attend the games in person. This last point is a must, and some schools experience this on a completely different level than others.
Although college football has seen a decline in attendance for the sixth straight year, some programs consistently fill up their stadiums during home games. In 2016, these 12 schools saw the highest average home attendance in the nation.
2016 average attendance: 86,937
Stadium: Jordan–Hare Stadium
Although the Auburn Tigers fell to the Oklahoma Sooners 35-19 in the Sugar Bowl, the 2016 season was far from a complete wash. Gus Malzahn’s group finished the year with an 8-5 mark and ranked No. 24 in the final AP poll. The Tigers also continued to be blessed with an extremely devoted fanbase, averaging 86,937 supporters per home game.
2016 average attendance: 87,846
Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
According to the numbers, the Florida Gators experienced a 2% dip in attendance in 2016, averaging 87,846 fan per game. However, those fans at “The Swamp” still experienced a highly successful year, as coach Jim McElwain and company went 9-4, crushed the Iowa Hawkeyes 30-3 in the Outback Bowl, and ended the year as the No. 14-ranked team in the country. The way we see it, the sky’s the limit in Gainesville in 2017.
2016 average attendance: 90,200
Stadium: Memorial Stadium
The 2016 Cornhuskers weren’t the best team the program has ever fielded, but that didn’t stop the Nebraska faithful from showing their love. Memorial Stadium in Lincoln experienced an average attendance of 90,200 fans per game, good enough for eighth in the country. Here’s to hoping that 2017 brings even more good fortune.
2016 average attendance: 92,746
Stadium: Sanford Stadium
The expectations are always high for the Georgia Bulldogs. And while the 2016 team wasn’t as competitive as most fans would’ve liked, finishing 8-5 on the year and 4-4 in the SEC, it still experienced plenty of love from its supporters. Georgia averaged 92,746 fans per game; same as it was the year before. We expect head coach Kirby Smart will look for vast improvements — all around — in 2017.
2016 average attendance: 97,881
Stadium: Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium
The Texas Longhorns have a history of hiring all-time great coaches. Unfortunately, following another 5-7 campaign, Charlie Strong, who was fired after three seasons on the job, will not join the list. That being said, it wasn’t all bad for Texas in 2016, as the program saw a 9% increase in average attendance. Your move, Tom Herman.
7. Penn State
2016 average attendance: 100,257
Stadium: Beaver Stadium
Although Penn State’s Beaver Stadium can seat over 107,000 people per game game, the Nittany Lions didn’t come close to averaging that amount in 2016.
Instead, Penn State pulled in 100,257 fans per game, an increase of less than 1% from the previous year. Of course, perhaps it’s time to give the Nittany Lions their proper due. After all, James Franklin’s group did win the Big Ten while going 11-3 on the season and finishing No. 7 in the final AP poll.
2016 average attendance: 100,968
Stadium: Neyland Stadium
For the second season in a row, the Tennessee Volunteers posted a 9-4 record. On top of that, they scored 36.4 points per game and finished the year as the No. 22-ranked team in the country. More importantly, the Knoxville faithful came out in droves to support their team.
With a less than 1% increase in attendance from the year before, Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium experienced an average of 100,968 fans per game. Considering the other names on this list, coming in at No. 6 is nothing to sneeze about.
2016 average attendance: 101,231
Stadium: Tiger Stadium
Les Miles’ time at LSU may be over, but the same cannot be said for the program’s place among the college football elite. With Ed Orgeron in charge, the team with one of the best tailgates in the country went 8-4, finished 13th in the final AP poll, and experienced an 8% increase in average home attendance. Tiger Stadium remains one of the premier venues in all of college football.
2016 average attendance: 101,821
Stadium: Bryant–Denny Stadium
Although Alabama fell short in the CFP national championship game, Bryant-Denny Stadium was clearly the place to be in 2016. The Crimson Tide, who have a history of attracting great players to the program, saw an average home attendance of 101,821 fans per game — a 1% increase from the season before. Considering Nick Saban’s crew is a perennial title contender, we expect the fans will continue to show up in droves.
3. Texas A&M
2016 average attendance: 101,917
Stadium: Kyle Field
After making a statement in the SEC back in 2012, the Texas A&M Aggies haven’t been able to rediscover the same magic. With three consecutive 8-5 seasons, you better believe head coach Kevin Sumlin feels the pressure. Of course, this hasn’t stopped the fans from filling up Kyle Field every chance they get.
In the 2016 season, Texas A&M saw an average attendance of 101,917 fans per contest, the third best mark in all of college football. Imagine what would happen if this team started legitimately competing for national championships. Now that would be scary.
2. Ohio State
2016 average attendance: 107,278
Stadium: Ohio Stadium
Unfortunately, the Ohio State Buckeyes were unable regain their position atop the college football mountain in 2016. Instead, Urban Meyer and company had to settle for a 11-2 record and a No. 6 ranking in the final AP poll. Of course, that being said, the Buckeyes still pulled in average of 107,248 fans per game. There’s nothing wrong with that.
2016 average attendance: 110,468
Stadium: Michigan Stadium
Let’s just call this the “Jim Harbaugh effect.”
In his second season as Michigan’s head coach, Harbaugh led the Wolverines to a 10-3 record, a 10th place finish in the AP poll, and most importantly, continued to help the program regain its place in the national spotlight. With Ann Arbor’s favorite son at the helm, Michigan Stadium experienced an average attendance of 110,468 fans per game — the best in the nation. At this rate, the only thing that could possibly top this mark would be a televised showdown over the future of satellite camps.