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What Do Attendance Figures Tell Us About The SEC?

empty-stadium-seatsThe ever-excellent Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News has done some digging and found that overall attendance at college football games is down year-to-year.  The first five weeks of the 2013 season were compared to the first five weeks of the 2012 and 2011 seasons.  Attendance is off by 3% from last year and 6% from two years ago.

None of this should surprise anyone.  The decline in attendance has been covered many time in many places, including here at  The quality of high definition broadcasts, the sheer number of games that are televised, new and different outlets for watching games (computers, phones), lack of quality WiFi and/or cell coverage at stadiums, rising costs of attendance (tickets, concessions, parking), and three to four games a year that feature cupcake opponents have all been cited as reasons for falling attendance figures.

Below are the September numbers for all 14 of the Southeastern Conference’s programs.  Keep in mind that these are tickets-sold figures, not actual turnstile numbers (which would no doubt be lower).  The schools are listed according to the percentage change from 2012′s first five weeks.


  School   2013 Avg. Attendance   2012 Avg. Attendance   Change   Home Games to Date
  Kentucky   60,789   50,712   +19.9%   Miami (OH), Florida, Louisville
  Ole Miss   60,815   55,158   +10.3%   SE Missouri St.
  S. Carolina   81,472   78,602   +3.7%   N. Carolina, Vanderbilt
  Florida   86,839   85,903   +1.1%   Toledo, Tennessee
  Texas A&M   86,906   86,777   +0.1%   Rice, Sam Houston St., Alabama, SMU
  Georgia   92,746   92,671   +0.1%   S. Carolina, N. Texas, LSU
  Alabama   101,821   101,821   +0.0%   Colorado St. Ole Miss
  Tennessee   90,406   90,665   -0.3%   Austin Peay, W. Kentucky, S. Alabama
  Miss. State   55,091   55,460   -0.7%   Alcorn St., Troy
  Auburn   84,719   85,968   -1.5%   Washington St., Arkansas St. Mississippi St.
  LSU   90,596   92,299   -1.8%   TCU, UAB, Kent St., Auburn
  Vanderbilt   35,326   36,942   -4.4%   Ole Miss, Austin Peay, UAB
  Arkansas   63,210   67,828   -6.8%   UL-Lafayette, Samford, S. Miss, Texas A&M
  Missouri   59,097   68,060   -13.2%   Murray St., Toledo, Arkansas St.



*  Kudos to Mark Stoops for exciting the Kentucky fanbase with his staff hires, his message, and his recruiting.  However, it must be pointed out that UK attendance fell to laughable levels as Joker Phillips’ tenure neared its end in 2012.

*  South Carolina fans — one of the most loyal if not the most loyal fanbase in the SEC — continue to increase their school’s ticket sales.  After many years of filling Williams-Brice Stadium to witness losing football teams, it’s good to see Cock fans finally rewarded with a product that equals their support.

*  As for Alabama… it’s good to be the king.  Tide fans continue to sell out Bryant-Denny Stadium.

*  Mississippi State hasn’t had the best of home games so far in 2013.  With stadium expansion on the way, MSU’s attendance is on to watch now that Dan Mullen’s halo has been tarnished a bit.

*  Traditional football powers Auburn and Arkansas have new coaches.  LSU has a coach who seems to win 10 games every single season.  Yet all three schools have seen a decline in attendance through September.  Welcome to the new college football reality — fans are more finicky.

*  Vanderbilt fans who hope to keep James Franklin in Nashville at year’s end had better start snapping up tickets to Dudley Field.  Franklin has campaigned long and hard for better attendance in what is the SEC’s smallest venue.  Should VU’s coach depart for greener pastures, expect fan support to be a motivating factor.

*  Anyone wondering about the temperature of Gary Pinkel’s seat at Missouri need only look at the Tigers’ attendance figures to arrive at the answer.  His seat is hot and he needs to win.  To date, he has.  He’ll need to keep that up now that the SEC portion of Mizzou’s schedule has arrived.  With massive expansion projects coming to the MU campus, the school can’t afford to see a revenue drop in its football program.




Most of the schools have varied little from last year (+/- 5%), even with the home games to come mostly against better competition than they've played to date. Notable exceptions:

Kentucky - New hope with new coach, 2 out of 3 home games against strong competition.

Mississippi - Success last year and very good recruiting overcome the one clunker home game to date.

Arkansas -  Always hard to read with the Little Rock game's capacity being about 25k less than Fayetteville; three out of four games so far have been stinkers.

Missouri - Bad competition and bad karma in Columbia, Pinkel better hope he has some success in SEC competition this year.


One thing to consider regarding Mizzou's attendance. Last year they played UGA in September. If you trade a 70K attendance for 62K, the numbers are more reasonable. For the first two home games the on field temp was over 130 degrees, and the heat index in the stands was around 100. Not making excuses, but when the opponent is Murray State, some folks are not going to attend in those conditions. Also MU attendance will be down all year due in part to the stadium construction and the loss of seating on the north end zone. However, you are correct in the observation that the Tigers need a winning season to recapture momentum gained by entering the SEC last year.

Check back in October and see what the attendance is for Conference games.


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