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Empty seats abound: football attendance is down

Rutgers had a down year at High Point Solutions Stadium with fewer fans in the seats. And there may be very good reasons why. But overall, attendance at college football was less than previous years. Even some of the big boys, including eight in the Big Ten. Let's take a look, and rest assured, we will include hoops and wrestling.

We look at Rutgers and Big Ten attendance throughout the football season.  And, yes, I expected people to be there through thick and thin...and thinner.  RU had its issues both on and off the field, factors that contributed to a 6% drop in attendance for 2015 over last season.  But we weren't alone. is reporting a five year downward trend in stadium attendance.  The bright spot?  This year's drop is less than prior years.  Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) attendance for home games (no neutral sites) averaged 43,288 fans per game.  Rutgers did better than the FBS average at 47,723.

The drop affected all kinds of programs, from the big dogs (e.g. LSU was down 8%, UCLA down 13%) to the smaller programs (central Florida -20%, Fresno State - 17%).

But a hot team and some big name visitors can do wonders for your attendance.  Temple hosted Penn State early on and then took on Notre Dame at the Linc.  That gave Temple an average attendance of 44,159, up an amazing 89%, the second best increase behind Akron's 97%.  But Akron only averaged 18,098.

We used Syracuse as a schadenfreude target a lot this season when it came to attendance.  And at the end of 2015, they were near the bottom among FBS schools for the worst decline from 2014.  Averaging 32,102, the Orange dropped 21% from their 2014 attendance totals.

Within the Big Ten, Rutgers still sits in the middle of the pack as far as actual reported attendance.  The 6% drop from 2014, though, put it in the same group as Iowa, Maryland, and Indiana, all of them with a 6% drop in attendance, too.  And amazingly, Northwestern, with a 10-2 regular season record and heading for a Jan. 1 Outback Bowl date with Tennessee, had the worst Big Ten drop in attendance, a fall of 14% from 2014.  Maybe the alums can't afford tickets.

School 2015 Average Difference from 2014
Northwestern 33,366 -14%
Iowa 63,142 -6%
Rutgers 47,723 -6%
Maryland 44,341 -6%
Indiana 44,314 -6%
Penn State 99,799 -2%
Wisconsin 78,014 -2%
Nebraska 89,998 -1%
Michigan State 74,661 < -1%
Illinois 41,342 < -1%
Ohio State 107,244 1%
Michigan 110,168 5%
Purdue 37,508 6%
Minnesota 52,355 9%


The 6,637 who attended the Monmouth game last week were a season high for the men.  It more than doubled the Central Connecticut wake crowd. Rutgers men are now averaging 4,402 for the year.

The women also had their best home crowd in their non-conference finale against LSU last Saturday. There were 2,254 at that contest, bringing the women's average RAC attendance to 1,877.

Up the Turnpike, Seton Hall continues to do well on the court but not at the box office.

The actual announced attendance against USF was 5,700.  And when you see a number like that, you have to figure the folks in charge said, "Pick an even number between 4,000 and 7,000 and we'll use that."  The Pirates play in a "professional" arena that Pat Hobbs helped get built.  They are playing to a 30.7% capacity, with their largest crowd against Wichita State, just over 7,500.


Last year, Rutgers had the sixth best attendance in the nation for wrestling.  And there were 2,652 at the Nebraska match.  So you really can't blame head coach Scott Goodale for dreaming big.

What's on your calendar?

Tickets for all Rutgers sports are available by phone at 866-445-GORU (4678) or online here.

Merry Christmas!