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.

57 thoughts on “HATS OFF TO CRABTOWN

  1. jgish92

    NAAA has certainly done a great marketing job to the Anne Arundel community. Another big advantage is how kid friendly the atmosphere is. Kids can play in the lot without being bombarded by F-bombs and drunken college kids. There is a lot to be said for that. Same with being to able to leave your tailgate stuff out and not having it stolen. It’s rare that you can take your 68 year old mother or 8 year old son to a college football game these days without worry. At NMCMS, you can do just that.

  2. Yeah, kid-friendliness is another thing that TSA emphasized. I also think that, post-renovation, the stadium itself is a draw. But that’s a topic for a different post.

  3. Robert

    Doesn’t hurt that USNA requires all students to buy tickets, as well as march to and attend games. No other school does this. Always thought it odd that USNA counts the mandated ticket purchases as part of paid attendance….

  4. If you don’t include the 4000 mids, Navy falls from #4 all the way down to #5 on the attendance/enrollment list. Every school has a student section, and they all count towards paid attendance totals.

  5. Robert

    Lopping off the Mids will probably reduce non-mid attendance too as lots of fans come to see the march-on, etc. These lists aren’t comparing apples and are pretty meaningless…

  6. TJ

    Lopping off the mids would also please the dork 2/C who brings a star wars novel to the football games and sits down fantasizing about Princess Leia for 4 quarters.

  7. lol

    I’m sure if you cut out popular elements of any school’s game day experience, their attendance would also suffer for it. The stats are valid.

  8. GoalieLax

    haha – hey robert, what if we didn’t field a football team? that sure would cut down on the attendance at our football games.

    did you know that Penn State has 21,000 student tickets for their home games? if you don’t believe me, check here http://live.psu.edu/story/37281 so almost ONE FIFTH of their ENTIRE stadium is STUDENTS!

    you’re right…we’re not comparing apples to apples…Navy is at a huge disadvantage as that we only have about ONE TENTH of our stadium filled with students

    you like them apples?

  9. Robert


    You’re missing the point. No student at Ohio State, Penn State or Florida is REQUIRED to buy season tickets. Also, how many of Penn State’s 21,000 students do you think would show up if the team were 0-10 like Navy in the early 80’s?

    Bull major, right?

  10. Robert

    Meant early 90’s… ’91 and ’92: 1-10… 2000-2002 weren’t so great either… I’m sure every member of the brigade bought tix and were there until the final whistle each of these years. This wouldn’t happen at any other school (which is nice).

    No other (non-academy) school compels students to buy tickets. If given the choice, most mids would prefer to use their liberty doing other things. Fewer mids = no dog and pony show pre-game. No dog and pony pre-game, fewer fans…. fewer fans, no need for posts about how Navy (and every other service academy with a football team) rank with the big dogs. No one is going to pay to see an 8-5 team year after year without the mandate of doing so or the dog and pony. That’s my only point.

  11. 1) The dog and pony was part of my original point if you actually read it.
    2) Who cares if it’s mandatory? There are a million other hypothetical scenarios we could come up with that would kill Navy’s attendance, too. Should we discuss all of those? What about all the hypotheticals we can come up with to explain away other schools’ attendance? The fact is that Navy draws well for its size, regardless of the reason. That the Brigade is part of the game day experience doesn’t make that statement any less valid.

    This is like that Notre Dame fan that tried to talk about the “effective score” of this year’s game.

  12. Goalielax

    i’m missing the point? what was the average attendance at michigan last year when they were terrible? did they suddenly draw only 15k to the game? was their student section empty? nope…students support their team regardless of the record. i can’t tell you how many NC State games I went to when Amato was running the program into the ground and the student section was packed to the gills while empty seats were abound in the public section. hell, NC state basketball has been terrible – 4th in their state of ACC schools…yet every game their student section fills the stands

    i’m sorry you’re so bitter about having to support your team (assuming you’re even a grad)

  13. Robert

    I missed the part of the blog that said only sycophants could post. I see Scott’s emails tauting attendance and think that to report mandated ticket sales is inaccurate. This post reinforces that; the information comparing sales with non-service academy schools is incorrect without factoring in this effect.

    If I put together a chart showing that Navy is #1, topping Ohio State, Florida and the like, when it comes to fans who wear uniforms in the stands. That may be true… but, you have to consider that the fans have no choice.

    No other school mandates purchase of student tickets. That’s the fact. Sorry if jgish, GL and the like disagree. I am guessing that if U of M had Navy’s record over the past 20 years, than they certainly wouldn’t need to build an expansion to their stadium.

    I enjoy the relative success that Navy’s had, but you have to keep it in perspective. Fans go in large part for the pageantry, students are required to buy tickets, and Mids go to the bowls with a mediocre schedule and a barely qualifying number of wins because they attract $$. (This is a good thing– alumni buy tix to donate to local military, etc). It is what it is and you can’t sugar coat it. It’s fun to watch at times (not this year at Ohio State, for example), but don’t make it something it isn’t

  14. goat7ed

    Army mandates student ticket purchases.
    Air Force mandates student ticket purchases.
    Va Tech and Texas A&M mandate ticket purchases for their repsectives Corps of Cadets.
    I would guess that band tickets are also counted, and those folks have to come and sit.
    The tickets were paid for.
    It is a fair comparison.

    What is unfair is luring fans to the stadium by having students be part of some pagentry and exploit them to make the gameday experience more attractive…you know who I’m talking to Ohio State band.

  15. Tim

    “Fans go in large part for the pageantry”

    Really? According to NAAA,

    “The Navy football program has set season ticket records for four-consecutive years at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and over the past six years, Navy has increased football season ticket sales by more than 150 percent.”

    I suppose this means that the pageantry has improved by 150%? Mids have improved their march-on skills by 150%?

    Just because everyone else thinks you’re wrong, it doesn’t mean they are sycophants. It might mean that you are, in fact, wrong.

  16. Mike

    lol Tim

    Again, even if you didn’t count the 4000 mids as paid attendance, everything I said would be true. That would put the attendance/enrollment ratio at 6.8, and Navy would just flip-flop with Wake Forest on the list. Just because you don’t count them as paid attendance, though, doesn’t mean that it’s unheard of to have the Brigade march in a pregame parade as one of their military obligations. Like goat7ed said, just think of the Brigade as a really, really big band.

    You say that “fans go in large part for the pageantry” as if 1) I didn’t already mention pageantry, Navyfest, and flybys in the original post, and 2) there’s something wrong with that. Does there need to be some stat to account for fans’ motives for attending? Should we not count class reunions as part of paid attendance? Maybe we should have a survey as fans come through the gates. The only thing that matters is that fans go, regardless of the reason. We don’t need loyalty tests to take their money.

  17. jgish92

    If you flip-flopped us with Wake, it would be under the assumption that all 4000 mids would bag out on the game. When we stunk, I bet we’d get 1000 mids who would’ve went. Now, I would bet that 2500-3000 would still go even if it weren’t mandatory. Maybe even more. Remember how many mids have given up days over holiday leave to attend bowl games? March ons at football games were one of the fun mandatory things as I recall.

  18. goat7ed

    “I suppose this means that the pageantry has improved by 150%? Mids have improved their march-on skills by 150%?”

    They’ve got a MUC.

  19. EightyFiver

    Robert, if I’m not mistaken, Notre Dame requires all students to buy tix, though maybe not to actually attend the games. (At least it was that way when I almost enrolled there in the early ’80s.)

  20. Chuck Atwater

    Counting the midshipmen in attendance does indeed provide USNA with an unfair advantage over less fortunate BCS schools who can’t rely on the crutch of UCMJ to force their student bodies to go to football games. Just one more shameful example of the SID using his position as a bully pulpit to intimidate Navy’s opponents in any way he can.

  21. DotBone89

    If I’m not mistaken; are there not substantial mandatory attendance by fraternities at the lesser schools?
    Go Latin, not Greek!

  22. DotBone89

    Just found the chuck atwater reference.

    Just hope chuck’s not related to Lee! (sorry for the political ref)

  23. notal79

    I attended Ohio State before USNA. At OSU, we paid a significant mandatory “Student Activity Fee,” a large chunk of which went to the Athletic Dept. That payment merely entitled us to access to discounted student tickets to football games and other events, on a 1st come, 1st served basis.

    To me, this OSU approach was even more “mandatory” than the USNA situation, because you HAVE TO pay — and don’t even get to go to the games unless you waste time sleeping in front of the ticket window and pay even more than you already have paid in the first place. I have no reason to believe that this has changed substantially.

  24. tom

    Tim wrote:
    I suppose this means that the pageantry has improved by 150%? Mids have improved their march-on skills by 150%?

    As a class of ’68 grad, I can garantee you that march-on skills have not improved by 150%. In fact, most of my civilian friends call it a “walk-on.” I used to correct them, but frankly, it is a “stroll-on.”

    I must say, though, I am surprized mids have to buy tickets; we never had to do that.

    Cheers! Beat Army! Beat Chair Force!

  25. Matt

    I’m pretty sure that the Mids should count as paid attentance, because if I remember correctly from my LES’s as a Mid, they were always sure to take the yearly NAAA deduction out of our pay… And I think we should be glad that all mids get to go, because there are plenty of other schools were not all students who want them get tickets.

  26. Gary

    3/4 of the fans in NMC sit on their hands or seem preoccupied with other “social activities” only on occasion when something happens do they perk up and still when the team scores they prefer to sit and clap.
    If it were NOT for the Brigade I cant imagine how quiet the place would be.
    For their support they should not have to “buy” tickets.

  27. Mike

    We are all very clear on that. But given how that doesn’t really change anything, I am not sure why you keep repeating it.

  28. Robert

    Mike, pretty obvious: If I made everyone in your family buy a season ticket to my skateboard show and then said that I was sold out, that’s a little different than me selling out on its merits. Issue is compounded by the fact that folks may in fact come just to ogle your family.

    Not saying it’s wrong or bad as you imply, just that you have to account for this. I think it’s a bit dishonest that Scott sends out press releases without disclosing this information.

  29. Mike

    Did you not read this part of the original post?

    “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. ”

    And like I said more than once, Navy falls all the way from #4 to #5 if you don’t include the Brigade. And what does “merit” have to do with anything? What a completely arbitrary and immeasurable standard! Can you list the approved reasons for attending a football game? If I take my daughter to a game with me, but she’d rather be at Ice Capades, can we count her? If I only flew into the game because it’s my class reunion, do I count? If I go to a Florida State game but would rather be at a Navy game, do I count for Florida State? How many people do you know that buy a ticket to the game but leave after the march-on?

    It doesn’t matter WHY people come to Navy games. All that matters is THAT people come to Navy games. The whole point of this post was that 1) USNA does not have a large natural fan base, 2) NAAA does a good job creating and marketing an environment that has broad appeal, and 3) the locals respond to it. You seriously want Stras to send out a press release about ticket sales, but then add at the end ,”But we don’t know what these people’s REAL motives are”? Give me a break.

    “From: Stras


    Navy set another record for season ticket sales this year, topping 20,000. 50% like football, 40% like parades, 5% just wanted the parking pass so they could tailgate, 4% wanted Army tickets, and 1% think Alex Teich is dreamy. So only 10,000 of those tickets count. We suck. Sorry for wasting your time.”

  30. Robert

    If people want to come to the game, that’s fine. If you MAKE them some to the game, that’s another issue. Navy enjoys a significant built in boost from the compelled attendance that other non-academy schools don’t. The rest of your previous comment is obfuscation.

  31. DJ

    Not sure how you can call Scott’s numbers dishonest. Where do you draw the line? Do you not count parents? They are somewhat forced to go to watch their kids. Do you count the band, cheerleaders, mascot? What about if a couple brings a young baby that has no choice in the matter?

    When you accept an appointment to the academy, you agree to go to the football games. I had friends at schools like ND and PSU that don’t even like football, but they go to the games because all of their friends go and there is nothing else to do on Saturday afternoon.

  32. Mike

    Repeating a refuted argument does not make you objective. And not being so self-loathing that I am able to give credit where credit is due doesn’t mean I lack objectivity.

  33. Robert

    Write a post about mid’s focusing on text messaging during the games (I went to the Ball State game and sat with the Mids… shocked every head down as if in prayer, focused on the electronic nipple in their hands) or about the choice of music played to the Brigade at home games (“back that ass up, anyone??”) and then you’ll be objective. Until then, you risk becoming Stras Jr.

  34. Mike


    Are you serious??? THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAID! “Write about texting and bad music, THEN you’ll be objective!”

  35. notal79

    It is not misleading in any way to include Mid attendance. USNA is a service academy, and anyone with a brain would expect Mids to be at games and for their attendance to be included. You expect them not to be counted, Robert? That would be silly and misleading.

    It is absurd on the border of intellectual dishonesty to suggest that other schools do not likewise impact attendance figures by forcing students’ hands. As my experience at OSU shows, big-time college FB programs get mandatory student financial support that directly translates into attendance. It is the standard of the trade.

    And, frankly, if there are any Mids who seriously don’t want to be at football games to be part of their military unit activity, I seriously question their fitness to serve as officers in the naval service. They’ve got deeper problems than paying a little bit of funny money to NAAA.

    Robert, you are trying to dance on the head of a pin. Unfortunately, you got the wrong end and are sitting on it.

  36. goat7ed

    Can this rule be extended to other areas…

    We get this money put in the treasury from taxes, but since nobody wants to pay taxes, and only pays because they have to pay, we can’t count it. That’s why there is never enough.

    There are also about 40 hamburgers that need to come off that McDonald’s total when I was forced to go there by being out voted (shouted down) by older siblings on car trips.

    Additionally, I can no longer be counted as someone who has ever marched a tour, taken Steam, and I’ve never owned a poodle…which is nice.

  37. Max93

    I do see Robert’s point. If Ohio State, Wake or other schools were able to make all their students buy ticketd and attend games, the numbers would be significantly different. That said, can we move to a different topic?

  38. jgish92

    Oh. My. God. Talk about missing the point! How exactly would it make a difference in Birddog’s argument if Ohio State mandated that all students purchase tickets and attend games? They would still sell to 100%+ stadium capacity. His point is this – Navy has relatively few students, relatively low amount of grads in the area, good amount of CFB options within a few hours, and they still sell out the stadium. Take away the 4000 conscripts, and their numbers would still be damn impressive.

  39. notal79

    Another way to look at it.: Like many other football factories, Ohio State does not ALLOW all students to attend. Instead they sell seats that students WANT, for higher prices to alumni (and hangers-on who never even attended the school). If football factories forced all students to attend, it would cost them big bucks. Navy ought to be applauded for passing up the revenue that could be earned by selling the Mids’ seats. Please don’t tell Chet.

  40. Witt94

    I don’t understand the disconnect here. Did Wake have many students attend voluntarily when they were terrible?

    Navy may not have had as good of attendance numbers when we were terrible, but we are not terrible anymore. The fact that Midshipmen attendance is mandatory would only be an interesting stat if we were talking about the many down years. In those years this topic would never have even come up because we would not have ranked as well as we are now.

    Ok, so maybe not the entire brigade would attend the games now (or in the past few years), but who is to say that 80% would still buy tickets and attend even if it were not mandatory? 60%? 90%? 100%?

    Until you can put a number on that this argument is moot. I attended the games as a mid when we sucked because I had 2 roommates on the team and I knew most of the team. And I got yelled at for standing up during the game.

    I have to say that I think the numbers are impressive all things considered. Attendance is up significantly because we have a significantly better product on the field, not because the “mandatory” attendance figures have increased.

    Of all the fun topics to debate and discuss about Navy football, this might be one of the dumbest.

  41. Rocky

    So do the football players buy tickets to watch themselves? Do they have to pay to play football? That’s wierd. Unless you’re a backup and don’t actually get in the game. In that case, you got a ticket for the same price as the other mids, but you are only 3 feet from the action! Awesome.

  42. GoalieLax

    that’s crazy talk

    too bad you didn’t bring this up when Robert was on his horse…he’s probably off trying to tell the audubon club the only reason there are so many seagulls on the soccer fields today is because the usna campus has a lot of pagentry (seriously they were everywhere)

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