Michigan football team breaks its own NCAA record for average attendance per game
Jeff Sainlar | AnnArbor.com
A simple formula: Schedule eight home games for the nation's largest stadium, and pack in more fans than the listed capacity.
The Michigan football program did just that to lead the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools with a total attendance of 897,431 this season. It's the program's 14th consecutive attendance title.
The Wolverines drew 112,179 people per game, which broke their own NCAA record of 111,825 from last season. They were at 102.07-percent capacity for their eight home games.
Michigan's usually-strong attendance marks were bolstered by an eight-game home schedule — the most in the country — that included marquee matchups such as Notre Dame (at night), Big Ten-newcomer Nebraska and rival Ohio State. There also were intriguing matchups such as Western Michigan, which was the program's first game under new coach Brady Hoke.
The Wolverines went 8-0 in their home games this season, a school record. They were 10-2 overall and will play Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3 (8:30 p.m., ESPN).
Their run of attendance titles could be in jeopardy next year, when their six-game home slate's only marquee matchup is Michigan State. The Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame games will be on the road, and the season opener against Alabama will be played in Dallas.
The home nonconference slate features Air Force and UMass, and the Big Ten schedule draws Illinois, Northwestern and Iowa, as well as the Spartans, to the Big House.
Michigan became the first school to average 100,000 per game in 1976, and has captured the national attendance title 36 times since 1974.
Ohio State drew the second-highest attendance at 736,618 in seven home games. Alabama was third at 712,747 in seven games.
Penn State was fourth, Nebraska 12th and Wisconsin 15th, giving the Big Ten five schools in the top 15. That trails only the SEC, which had six.
Eastern Michigan came in last among the 120 FBS teams at 25,599 fans in six home games, an average of 4,267. Kent State was the next closest at 69,520, a per-game average of 11,587.