It’s safe to say, especially across the South, that universities make a majority of their revenue from their football programs. This should come as no surprise. College football is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports in America, and as a result, has turned into a multibillion-dollar business.
Attendance at the 2014 National Championship Game for the highly anticipated Auburn-Florida State showdown topped 94,000 in the Rose Bowl.
The increase in popularity of college football has a lot to do with viewership and attendance. The other revenue-generating collegiate sports, men’s basketball and even baseball for a few schools, are much the same way.
College basketball and baseball, though not the spectacle college football has become, are also widely televised and well attended across the country.
The college basketball 2013 Final Four was held in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to accommodate the sport’s rising popularity. It will be held in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in 2014, in hopes of shattering more attendance records.
The attendance over Final Four weekend topped 150,000 for the two-day event in 2013, breaking a Georgia Dome record as one of the most attended games in stadium history.
The 14-game attendance total for the 2013 College World Series in Omaha, Neb., was the largest in the event’s history, totaling more than 341,000, or more than 24,000 per game.
We all see the popularity of the revenue generating sports universities offer, but how well attended are the other sports such as softball, volleyball and gymnastics on college campuses?
These sports, which do not generate nearly the money as football, basketball and baseball, are obviously not as popular or as well attended, but some of the attendance numbers may come across as shocking.
For example, Arkansas’ recent gymnastics meet at Alabama was attended by more than 15,000 fans. Compared to national averages, 15,000 fans for a gymnastics meet is extremely high.
Staying in the Southeastern Conference, Florida’s latest gymnastics meet against Georgia tallied a crowd of more than 10,000. Granted, Alabama and Florida have great gymnastics programs, but attendance that high for a gymnastics meet is a real head-turner.
As far as attendance across the SEC for gymnastics in 2013, seven SEC programs finished in the top 10 in the nation in average attendance, eight in the top 25.
Alabama finished No. 2 with more than 11,000 fans per meet, and Arkansas finished tenth with an average of 3,440 fans per meet.
The Crimson Tide’s softball program is also the most well-attended in the nation, averaging a national best of 2,609 fans per game in 2013. Alabama also averaged 2,474 fans per home game in 2012, which led the SEC.
Arkansas’ 593 fans per game in 2013 was good for seventh in the SEC behind Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Florida, Texas A&M and Georgia.
Volleyball is also another decently attended sport at Arkansas and in the SEC. In 2012, Arkansas’ average attendance was just more than 1,000 per match, totaling 18,297 fans in its 18 home matches.
Arkansas didn’t see quite the same turnout in 2013. The Razorbacks’ home attendance average dropped to 870 fans per match, totaling just 13,047 fans in 15 matches, despite having two matches break Barnhill Arena attendance records along the way (No. 2 Missouri and No. 2 Florida).
As a conference, the SEC finished fifth in total volleyball attendance in 2012 behind the Big Ten, Western Athletic Conference, Big 12 and Pac 12.
So despite lower attendance in comparison with the major, money-making sports on campus, the non-revenue sports do fairly well for themselves.
And with the occasional televised game, meet or match, these sports will grow in popularity and, as a result, in attendance, as well.