College football game attendance continues to trend downward nationally, according to figures released by the NCAA on Tuesday.
FBS games (including neutral-site and bowl games) averaged 42,203 fans in 2017, a drop of 1,409 fans per game from 2016. It is the fourth consecutive year that FBS attendance has dropped year over year and, at 3.2 percent, it is the largest average drop since 1983.
After reaching its peak in 2008 of 46,971 fans per game, average annual FBS attendance has dropped all but two years (2010 and 2013).
Average attendance was down across the board. FCS games dropped an average of 134 fans per game (1.6 percent) in 2017 while Division II (186 fans; 5.3 percent) and Division III (81 fans, 4.1 percent) also had declines. Across all NCAA football divisions, average attendance was down 380 fans per game in 2017 (2.8 percent)
Neutral-site games saw significant drops in both FBS and FCS, losing an average of 4,727 (7.6 percent) and 4,071 fans per game (11.7 percent), respectively.
Only two FBS conferences saw an increase in average attendance: The Big Ten increased by 76 fans per game and the Mountain West by 832. Every other league saw declines in attendance, with the American (2,942) and SEC (2,433) having the sharpest falls.
The SEC, however, still had the largest average attendance of all conferences, bringing in 75,074 fans per game. The SEC has led the country in attendance every year since 1998.
The Big Ten (66,227) came in second, followed by the Big 12 (56,852), the Pac-12 (49,601) and the ACC (48,442).
Michigan paced the FBS with the highest average home attendance, with 111,589 fans per game for their six home games. Ohio State (107,495), Penn State (106,707), Alabama (101,722) and Texas A&M (98,802) rounded out the top five. Michigan and Penn State were up in 2017 attendance while Ohio State, Alabama and Texas A&M were slightly down.
Purdue (47,884) had the largest average increase in attendance in 2017, with 13,433 more fans attending games. The Boilermakers’ on-field turnaround, going from 3-9 in 2016 to 7-6 last season, likely played a role in that under first-year coach Jeff Brohm.
Akron (9,232), Florida Atlantic (8,875), New Mexico State (8,694) and Penn State (6,450) saw the next biggest increases in average attendance in 2017.