Now that all the major schools have finished spring practice schedules and held some version of a spring game (each school does things slightly differently), let’s take a quick look at how fan bases across the state and country represented for their favorite squad.
The Sporting News does a good job compiling attendance numbers every year for BCS schools. Here’s the 2010 list.
Alabama once again led all BCS conference schools with 91,312 fans at its annual spring game, up from 84,050 last year.
Florida State saw a record crowd for the first spring game of the post-Bobby Bowden era, with 51,000 in attendance. Other schools drawing record crowds for their respective spring games this year include Mississippi State, West Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida and Indiana.
How Alabama gets 90,000+ to show up for what is essentially a long practice is beyond me. Aside from the obvious “there is nothing better to do in Alabama” line, it’s tough not to see that as impressive.
Florida State (51,000) carried the torch for the ACC while Virginia Tech (41,000), UNC (29,000), Clemson (27,000) and NC State (25,372) also ranked in the top 20 nationally. The SEC blew all other conferences away as a group, putting nearly 400,000 fans in the stands for its game and having four of the top 10 numbers on the list.
Another interesting thing about the Sporting News’ list is to look at how the numbers have changed over the last three years. It’s interesting to see how programs have changed for the better, or in some cases, worse. Exhibit A on this year’s list might be Louisville. The Cardinals were only able to get 5,600 people to show up in 2010 while more than 15,000 came in 2008 and 2009. On the other end of the spectrum is Carolina. The Heels did not have a spring game in 2008, drew 3,000 fans to its 2009 skills day but somehow managed to draw 29,000 this year. Hmmm? Something seems not quite right.
On that note, let’s talk methods.
While spring game attendance numbers are always intriguing, what they usually do for me is call into question who does the calculating and how they do it. Who is at the gates of these games counting heads? What genius is sitting up in the press box making an educated guess? Does Alabama just count folks without sleeves? Does Penn State only tally those wearing white?
While it doesn’t make a ton of difference, it’s a serious question I would ask the Media Relations offices for some of these schools. Where do you get your numbers? And, at the end of the day, why do they matter? I understand that in some ways these numbers judge the relative “health” of a program, but does that make a difference come September?