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Big Ten attendance: Waiting on the big boys

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There were seven home games in the Big Ten; attendance was so-so. But, except for Nebraska, the big stadiums weren't in use. Let's take a look.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get this out there up front: from a capacity standpoint, Rutgers did its job.  The announced crowd of 47,453 was just over 90% of capacity, and put RU at number two in week one attendance.  As for overall numbers, Nebraska was number one with 89,959 at Memorial Stadium.  Ironically, they also had the only home loss.

The firing of head coach Tim Beckman just days before the season was to start didn't help promote the Illini's season opener.  And the weather didn't help either.  Severe thunder storms postponed the game from Friday night to Saturday afternoon. But a wounded animal can be vicious: the Illini thumped Kent, 52-3.

Week 1 in the Big Ten

School Attendance Capacity % Capacity Result
Nebraska 89,959 92,000 97.78 L BYU
Rutgers 47,453 52,454 90.47 W Nfk St
Iowa 59,450 70,585 84.22 W Ill St
Northwestern 36,024 47,130 76.44 W Stanford
Maryland 38,117 54,000 70.59 W Richmond
Indiana 36,071 52,929 68.15 W So Ill
Illinois 36,693 65,000 56.45 W Kent
Average 49,110

Why do we play neutral site games?

Money!  What a stupid question.  It certainly isn't for the crowd.  The 80,000 seat AT & T Stadium in Arlington, TX  was about three-quarters filled for the game between Wisconsin and No. 3 Alabama.  For the Tide, that was about 37,000 less than they averaged at home in 2014 (101,534).  And the same applies to he Badgers, who averaged 79,520 at home last year.

Estimates for other early season neutral site payouts to each team are over $3 million.  Fans may - or may not - travel to see their team play.  But with a guaranteed check - unrestricted the way post-season payouts are - we'll see even more of these games.

Air Raid offenses don't always mean fans in the seats

This Saturday's opponent, Washington State, opened its season in dreary conditions at home.  It was 46 degrees with overcast skies and rain in Pullman.  The only thing that could make it worse would be a loss.  Oh, wait.

WSU drew just 24,302 in its home opener with Portland State of the FCS Big Sky Conference.  The Cougars 2014 average attendance was 30,794.  And that was a 4% increase over 2013.

There but for the grace of Jim Delany

Lets not kid ourselves.  While Rutgers was doing pretty well in drawing fans, even in the declining Big East and the AAC, the numbers probably wouldn't be as good for us if we were still there.  Your honor, I give you exhibit A: the inflatable blimp hangar that is the Carrier Dome.  The Orange, like many teams, opened the season against perennial powerhouse Rhode Island, winning 47-0.  The attendance?  30,111, meaning there were 19,150 empty seats.

And back in the AAC, we have Exhibit B.  Our friends in Storrs drew 26,113 to the newly named Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field (PAWS ARF) to watch the Huskies beat FCS Villanova, 20-15.  That's a tad over 64% capacity.

By the way, the naming rights agreement at Rentschler points out the importance corporate sponsorship is.  And it is a point to consider seriously for Rutgers as it moves forward with facilities.  Pratt & Whitney, a unit of Hartford-based United Technologies, is extending a partnership with the State of Connecticut and UConn.  Rutgers needs to do similar things - and so do New Jersey companies.

Schadenfreude...for the guys in blue

In 2014, Temple drew a total of 140,217 fans to Lincoln Financial Field.  That's an average of 23,369.

On Saturday, they drew 69,176, about 49% of their entire 2014 total.  And boy, did the Temple fans get their monies worth.  Nitty Kitty fans, ehh, not so much.  Ouch!

Last season, Temple's biggest draw was its opener against Navy, a game that drew 28,408.  It was pretty much downhill after that.  The last time Rutgers played Temple at The Linc, in 2012, there were 35,145 there to watch the 35-10 victory by the Knights.  And trust me, most of those in attendance were there for the Scarlet.