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In recent years, I’ve tracked spring football game attendance.
Why? For Web traffic. But also because I think it paints a picture reflecting where the true mania for college football exists.
If you’re going to a spring football game and don’t have a friend or family member on the team, you’re a big fan. You’re giving up a few hours on a spring weekend to see an exhibition. That’s serious fan stuff.
This year, I’m merely swiping the figures from others who have worked the Web to track them down. And here is the Big Ten’s spring-game attendance, lifted from this blog post by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Doug Lesmerises:
1. Penn State 72,000 (free)
2. Nebraska 61,772 ($10)
3. Ohio State 61,058 ($5)
4. Michigan State 35,000 (free)
5. Iowa 20,400 (free)
6. Michigan 15,000 (free)
7. Rutgers 11,500 (free)
8. Indiana 9,231 (free)
9. Maryland 8,319 (free)
10. Wisconsin 8,204 ($5)
11. Purdue 7,175 (free)
12. Illinois 5,105 (free)
13. Minnesota 5,000 (free)
14. Northwestern N/A (free, no game, just open practice)
Iowa and some of its assistant coaches worked Twitter pretty hard last week appealing to fans to come to the Hawkeyes’ spring game. With recruits in attendance, the appearance of fan-interest is one more friend to a recruiter.
The weather was about as pleasant as you could want, and an estimated 20,400 was the crowd. That’s pretty good. Were Iowa coming off a Rose Bowl bounce like Michigan State, I’d bet the gathering would have been in that 35,000 range. Maybe even a little more.
How you get to a point where you can get 61,000 to pay $10 like Nebraska? I haven’t the faintest idea. Being the only FBS program in the state helps, of course. But Iowa draws 67,000-plus for every home game in the regular-season.
There is something in that Nebraska DNA that makes going to a Husker spring game more than just a mere option on an April Saturday. And paying to do it.
I’m equally impressed by 7,175 fans going to Purdue’s spring game on the heels of the Boilermakers’ 1-11 season. And surprised.