Ohio State football attendance drops, but still near the top

Jamie Sabau

Per the NCAA's official numbers, Ohio State's gate figures are still impressive – just not quite as impressive as last year.

Given the size of their stadium, their fan base and tradition, it should be expected that Ohio State woulld appear near the top of any national football attendance figures. The NCAA released their official data for the 2013 season, and Ohio State doesn't disappoint – although their showing is a bit less impressive than last season.

Per the report, Ohio State is second nationally in home game attendance, with a total of 734,528 fans over seven home games, for an average of 104,933 per game. Only Michigan outpaced them, at 781,144 and 111,592 per, respectively

The Buckeyes are a big draw on the road as well. In terms of total attendance, Ohio State was also second nationally, with 1,191,436 fans over 14 games, second only to Auburn at 1,204,185. Michigan was 3rd, and Nebraska 5th, with the total list having an SEC and Big Ten flavor, as you might expect.

Impressive numbers, to be sure, just not quite as impressive as last year. Per the NCAA's official 2012 report, Ohio State actually averaged 105,330 fans per game (and drew a total of 842,637 for home games), although that team was also second to Michigan in home attendance. The Buckeyes were 4th in total attendance in 2012, but hey, they only got to play 12 games.

Ohio State isn't alone. While the NCAA as a whole enjoyed record attendance, in part because of an increase in the number of FBS programs, many schools are seeing dips in attendance, especially among students. Early kickoff times, poor cell phone reception, and poor seat quality (as many programs move student seats to make room for more lucrative booster seating) have all been cited as reasons for possible dips.

What might have caused Ohio State's modest dip? My best guess would be in the quality of the home slate. The 2012 schedule had home games with Cal (who was thought to be potentially at least okay going into the season), Nebraska and Michigan. The 2013 schedule, Wisconsin notwithstanding, was mostly a big ol' bowl of "who the hell cares?". A non-conference home slate with Buffalo, SDSU and Florida A&M isn't going to convince a casual fan to make the trip to Columbus and try to pony up for parking, and the home conference slate skipped Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State.

Next year's home schedule looks a little better at the top end. Ohio State will host Virginia Tech (and even if they aren't the Tech squads of the mid 2000s, are still a brand name and should be at least decent), a potentially feisty Cincinnati squad, and Michigan, along with the curiosity factor of Rutgers (Penn State and Michigan State are on the road). If the Buckeyes are good all season long, a slight uptick is possible.

At the end of the day though, Ohio State probably can't improve on the average attendance that much. Ohio Stadium's official capacity is only 102,329. There are, after all, only so many tickets to sell, and the day that Ohio State's athletic department has to sweat money, well, we'll all have a lot of much bigger problems to worry about.

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