College Football Attendance Continues Decline

Andy Berg Headshot

Average attendance at college football games continued to drop in 2017 according to new numbers from the NCAA, which were reported by CBS Sports.

Attendance among the 129 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision last year was down by an average of 1,409 fans per game over 2016. That’s the largest year-over-year drop since 1983, when average attendance fell by 1,527 fans per game. 

The 2017 FBS average of 42,203 fans per game was the lowest since 1997.

The NCAA began keeping track of attendance back in 1948. This year’s average represents a 10 percent drop from 2008’s all-time high of 46,971.

Even the SEC saw a dip in attendance in 2017, which saw its largest per-game decline since 1992. While the SEC led all FBS conferences in average attendance, the conference’s average attendance (75,074) was the lowest since 2005.

Wright Waters, executive director of the FBS, attributed the falling numbers to evolving technology and viewing habits. "It's a technology issue," he told CBS Sports. "The public is ahead of us every day in what they can get from technology. We have not been able to keep up."

A decline in student attendance is another reason for the overall drop. Bill Lutzen, CFO of a web optimization firm, blamed the decline on a fundamental change in college life. "This issue is with lack of involvement of the college students,” he said. “They no longer view attending sporting events as part of the university experience."   

In all, 47.6 million fans attended NCAA football in 2017, down almost 2.7 million (5.3 percent) since an all-time high of 50.3 million in 2013.

Waters was frank about how the FBS feels about those falling numbers. “Are we concerned about it? You’re damn right.”

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