Ranking CFB’s Worst Major Conference Fanbases
October 21st, 2013| by Lost Lettermen
The pageantry and anticipation surrounding a college football game is what makes the sport great, but only if there are fans there to actually witness it. With attendance down across college football, we count down College Football’s Worst FBS Fanbases in the big five conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12) based on attendance and general support of their programs.
Recognizing that it needed to look the part of both a Big 12 program as well as a program that had enjoyed nine seasons of 10 wins or more since 2000, TCU recently spent $164 million renovating Amon G. Carter, which celebrated its 83rd birthday on October 11th.
It worked to great effect in 2012, as the Horned Frogs sold out their home general admission for the first time ever. But perhaps going a disappointing 10-10 since the start of last year has chased some fans away, as evidenced by the above no-show against Kansas on October 12th.
TCU is overshadowed by the plethora of other Texas college football programs and the nearby Dallas Cowboys, and it doesn’t help that it’s a small, private school. But a program that’s been so successful in recent years should be averaging more than 42,725 fans per home game (TCU’s average thus far this fall).
Can TCU invest in renovating its fans as well?
A burgeoning Pac-12 power, the Cardinal’s inability to draw as many fans as it would like isn’t just a football problem. Rather, it appears to be a problem that all of Stanford’s athletic teams have – a crazy notion considering that it’s annually one the best overall athletic programs in the country.
For last year’s Pac-12 Championship Game against UCLA, a mere 31,622 fans were on hand to watch the Cardinal reach its first Rose Bowl since 2000 (it averaged 43,343 on the season). Enthusiasm for the Rose Bowl itself, however, was hardly lacking: Stanford’s allotment of 31,000 tickets for the game sold out in less than 30 hours due to a national imprint of rich alums.
There are many fanbases across the country that would kill for a team like Stanford’s. Apparently students in Palo Alto are too busy studying to notice the program’s rapid ascension.
2012 marked the Wildcats’ first 10-win season since the beloved ’95 squad that won the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl, yet on average Ryan Field was filled to just 79% of its 45,000-seat capacity for each home game (35,697).
Northwestern’s 4-0 start to 2013 and its highly-anticipated, Saturday night matchup against fourth-ranked Ohio State on October 5th (when the Wildcats were ranked No. 16) should have been reason to pack the stadium with Wildcats fans. Yet it was clear to anyone watching that the Ryan Field stands had just as much scarlet (if not more) as it did purple.
For a school that bills itself as “Chicago’s Big Ten Team,” it’s certainly fooled us.
We’ve long been critics of any college team that, because of one set of circumstances or another, plays its home games in an NFL stadium. No pairing more illustrates this problem than Pitt at Heinz Field, which it has called home since 2001.
The home of the Pittsburgh Steelers holds 65,500 fans – meaning that, on average, more than 23,000 seats were empty for the Panthers’ six home contests in 2012 (average attendance: 41,494). Not even a free shuttle service from Pitt’s campus to the stadium can entice more fans to show up.
And this is for a program that used to be a traditional power and has a big undergraduate population with a rabid basketball fanbase. Sadly, Pitt football has replaced Major League Baseball’s Pirates as the laughingstock of Steel Town.
1. Miami (FL)
Sports fans in the city of Miami as a whole are notorious, and none are lazier or more fair-weather than Hurricane backers.
Even during the Hurricanes’ glory years, “The U” had trouble drawing fans. During their last national title-winning season, in 2001, the Hurricanes’ average attendance at the old Orange Bowl was 46,162 – less than 62% of the iconic stadium’s capacity.
It’s a problem that’s only been exacerbated since the program’s move to the Miami Dolphins’ home field, Sun Life Stadium (derisively nicknamed “Sun Lifeless Stadium” by locals). The ‘Canes’ listed averaged attendance of 47,719 in 2012 was a generous figure, as there were several games last year where they would have been lucky had a quarter of that number been present.
We know it’s a small, private school and a pain to get to Sun Life Stadium, but there’s no excuse for those pitiful attendance numbers. And ‘Canes fans show up for games like Florida and Florida State.
It’s all the others – like the pathetic showing above last fall, a mere 18 minutes before kickoff against North Carolina – when Miami fans are almost nowhere to be found.