Do you guys scan the links once in a while? If you don’t, you’ll miss things like Pete Medhurst’s return to blogging, Patrick Stevens counting down all 120 teams, and BGS talking about plays that didn’t work last year. Of course, we have regular commenters here that are bloggers themselves. You’ll also miss this excellent post on The Sports Arsenal.
TSA is an extremely well-written blog that focuses on The Citadel, but also wanders off into the sporting world in general from time to time. Maybe The Citadel isn’t the first thing you feel like reading about when you fire up the computer, but it isn’t unusual to see parallels between what’s written on TSA and what we talk about here. For example:
I want to start, though, by pointing out something that is obvious, but gets forgotten about sometimes when alums talk about attendance. For a school of The Citadel’s size, its historical football attendance is great. Not good, great. Even in a disappointing year (last season the average attendance per home game was just 12,261), The Citadel had an attendance-to-undergrad ratio of 6 to 1. Do you know how many schools out there (especially FCS schools) would kill for even a 2 to 1 ratio? Schools with just 2,000 students and a small alumni base really shouldn’t be doing that well. It says a lot for the school’s loyal alums and fans that the attendance is as good as it is.
We’ve talked about this a few times. With the number of midshipmen usually hovering just above 4,000, the Naval Academy is one of the smallest schools in all of I-A. Upon graduation, almost all of those newly commissioned ensigns and second lieutenants are sent out to all corners of the country (and the world). It isn’t exactly the best way to create a robust local fan base. Most other schools’ graduates remain within a reasonable distance of campus; reasonable enough to drive a few hours on a Saturday morning, anyway.
Here’s the 2008 top ten in I-A average attendance:
Not surprisingly, every school on this list is a giant state school with at least 20,000 in undergraduate enrollment. But you get a much different list when you take that attendance and divide by enrollment:
I don’t think anyone is surprised to see Notre Dame sitting on top of this list. Clemson and Southern California certainly aren’t a shock, either. The other seven schools on the list, though, aren’t exactly schools you think about when it comes to attendance superlatives. So what does it mean? In Navy’s case, I think it shows just how much community support there is for the football program. Air Force has a higher ratio, but the Falcons are pretty much the only game in town in Colorado Springs. Denver is 70 miles away, and the closest I-A program, Colorado, is 100 miles away. Within 30 miles of the Naval Academy are two NFL franchises, two Major League Baseball franchises, a BCS state school, plus NBA and NHL teams. There is tremendous competition for the area sports fan’s dollar. For small school like Navy to draw nearly 35K per game in this environment is borderline miraculous. Keep in mind that this number does not include Army-Navy attendance, nor Navy-Notre Dame in Baltimore. This is strictly people passing through the turnstiles at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
For another measure of how well Navy is doing, take a look at the company Navy keeps when it comes to attendance relative to stadium capacity:
You aren’t going to find too many lists with Navy sandwiched in between Ohio State, Florida, and Michigan. There is a lot of demand for Navy tickets, all things considered. Why? I think there are a few factors. One thing that NAAA has done pretty well over the years is that they haven’t marketed only to sports fans. They’ve put a lot of effort into making Navy games events that appeal to entertainment seekers in general, with the march-on, flyovers, tailgating, etc. Annapolis itself is a fun place for just about anybody, which also plays into that theme. The team being good only adds to the appeal. There are also a lot of USNA graduates that end up settling around Norfolk, Oceana, Washington, and Annapolis, which helps offset the the lack more recent grads in the immediate area. But only a little. For the most part, NMCMS is packed with locals.
Anne Arundel County deserves a lot of credit for its support of Navy football.