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Big Ten spring attendance by the numbers

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The SEC may have led the pack when it comes to spring game attendance, but the Big Ten was once again a strong draw this spring with its usual heavy-hitters continuing to set the pace for the conference. Highlighted by a record-setting turnout for the Ohio State spring game, the Big Ten finished in a firm second place in cumulative spring game attendance with a total of 376,049 fans attending spring games in the Big Ten this year.

Big Ten Spring Attendance By School

Here is how the Big Ten schools compared to each other in the spring game attendance figures.

  1. Ohio State – 100,189
  2. Nebraska – 72,992
  3. Penn State – 65,000
  4. Michigan State – 51,000
  5. Michigan – 35,000
  6. Iowa – 18,460
  7. Rutgers – 14,177
  8. Wisconsin – 9,181
  9. Purdue – 5,050
  10. Illinois – 5,000

Note: No attendance figures were made available for Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota and Northwestern.

What Meyer Wants, Meyer Gets

Ohio State set the national spring game attendance record a year ago coming off a national championship with 99,391 fans. Despite the lack of championship this spring to defend, head coach Urban Meyer raised the bar and claimed he wanted to see 100,000 fans at the spring game in Columbus. He got his wish with a new record crowd of 100,189 fans this spring. What’s next for Meyer? Well, there are still a few seats left to fill. Will Meyer hope to push that number even higher next spring?

Biggest Increase, Biggest Drop

In the spring following an undefeated regular season and appearance in the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl, Iowa boasted the largest increase in spring game attendance this season, both in total fans and percentage. To be fair, Iowa did not have much to compete against with its 2015 spring attendance number. A year ago Iowa recorded an estimated 8,000 fans for the spring game. That was up over 10,000 with a much more official-sounding 18,460 fans this spring.

Most of the other Big Ten spring numbers were within close distance compared to 2015, either increasing or decreasing by no more than a couple thousand fans for the most part. While Iowa had the most noticeable increase in spring attendance, the Michigan Wolverines saw the most significant drop. Last year Michigan broke the typical spring game mold in Ann Arbor by turning in a crowd of 60,000 for the first spring game under Jim Harbaugh. This year that total dropped to 35,000. The biggest reason for that drop can likely be contributed to the schedule. Last year’s spring game was played on a Saturday afternoon. This year’s game was given a Friday night billing, which may have led some Wolverine faithful to pass. Michigan has not typically been a huge spring draw, but it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, are made to the scheduling of next year’s spring game.

The Other Usual Power Players

Ohio State aside, it was yet another solid spring showing from the fans in Lincoln, Nebraska and State College, Pennsylvania. Nebraska and Penn State have always typically been strong spring game draws on a regular basis, and neither disappointed again this season. Nebraska once again eclipsed the 70,000-fan mark with 72,992 showing up. Penn State brought in another 60,000+ crowd with an estimated 65,000.

Michigan State is starting to become one of the stronger spring draws as well. The Spartans set a new school record with 51,000 coming out to East Lansing on Saturday. With that, Michigan State pushed past their rivals from Ann Arbor, which surely will bring a smile to the face of Mark Dantonio.

Quick Hits

  • Illinois got off to a late start with spring practices due to a late coaching change. No formal spring game was open to fans, but 5,000 Illini faithful got a chance to see Lovie Smith in action as the new head coach during an open practice.
  • Like LSU in the SEC, the fact that Wisconsin only brings in just fewer than 10,000 for its spring game amazes me. Wisconsin fans love the Badgers and make for a great crowd, but for whatever reason there is not much emphasis on the spring game.
  • Maryland has not recorded a spring game attendance either of the past two spring games, but Rutgers has once again welcomed about 15,000 fans for its spring game for the second straight spring.

You can view my database of spring game attendance in this Google doc. It is updated periodically as information becomes available or confirmed.

Chip Kelly’s new ESPN gig could be pit stop back to college sideline

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After being cut from his second NFL job in as many years just after the college football coaching carousel came to a halt, we just knew Chip Kelly couldn’t keep himself away from the college football game this fall.

ESPN announced today Kelly has been hired to be a college football studio analyst with the network for the upcoming season.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting, said in a released statement. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”

Kelly says he is ready for the new job.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in his statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.”

Of course, the obvious thought here is this studio gig with ESPN is a one-year job at the most for Kelly, because his name will be one of the most popular names in the coaching rumor mills the moment something goes wrong at any number of programs this upcoming season. Kelly has been fending off rumors about his expected return to college coaching from the very beginning of his brief run in the NFL, first with the Philadelphia Eagles and then with the San Francisco 49ers. It’s pretty much par for the course for the former Oregon Ducks coach who also fought off NFL rumors for years before finally leaving for the NFL.

The job could be a good fit for Kelly, because he certainly knows his football and has a unique perspective to offer. Kelly could follow a path previously ventured by Rich Rodriguez (Michigan to CBS Sports Network to Arizona) and Urban Meyer (Florida to ESPN to Ohio State).

If there is one person who may be happy to have Kelly on board, it may be Monday Night Football analysts Jon Gruden, who now will hear a co-worker’s name heard in rumor mills more often for the next few months.

Academics will push 2017 four-star Auburn signee to a JUCO

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Until he gets his academic house in order, Alaric Williams‘ debut on The Plains will, at minimum, be delayed.

The 2017 signee confirmed via his Twitter account that, because he “came up short academically,” he will not play for Auburn this season.  Instead, the running back has signed with Garden City Community College and will play for the junior college in 2017.

In his tweet, Robinson intimated that, after his stint at the JUCO level, he’ll make his way to AU; whether that ultimately happens over the next several months remains to be seen.  The highly-touted signee also had a message for “the young recruits who are being highly recruited.”

“School is not something you play with,” the Alabama product wrote, adding, “I wish I would’ve realized that from the day I started high school.”

A four-star member of the Tigers’ most recent recruiting class, Williams was rated as the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Alabama. In addition to running back, the 6-0, 195-athlete was also being looked at as a slot receiver in AU’s offense.

Ex-Rutgers QB officially enrolls at San Diego State

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Three months after it was initially indicated, Chris Laviano officially has a new college football home.

According to a press release, Laviano has signed an offer-in-aid and is enrolled in classes for the summer session at San Diego State.  The move paves the way for the quarterback to join the Aztecs football team for the upcoming season.

As Laviano is moving on to SDSU as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2017.  This will be Laviano’s final season of eligibility.

In late November of last year, Laviano opted to transfer from Rutgers.  Prior to that, Laviano had started 18 consecutive games for the Scarlet Knights until he was benched in October of last year.

In 2015, Laviano completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 2,247 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The completion percentage was the best for an RU player since 2008, while the yardage was good for eighth in school history.

Overall, he tossed 21 touchdowns and 15 picks during his time in Piscataway.

At SDSU, Laviano will compete with, among others, the incumbent Christian Chapman for the starting job. The 2016 starter missed spring practice this year as he recovered surgery on his thumb he underwent this offseason.

In his first full season as the starter, Chapman completed 153-of-251 passes for 1,994 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.  His 149.2 pass efficiency was second among Mountain West signal-callers.

Highest-rated signee in TCU’s 2015 recruiting class to transfer

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Ratings-wise, Deshawn Raymond was the crown jewel of TCU’s 2015 recruiting class.  Two years later, he’s gone.

On his personal Twitter account this week, Raymond announced that he has decided to transfer from the Horned Frogs and continue his collegiate playing career at an undetermined elsewhere. “I want to thank [head coach Gary Patterson] for giving me this golden opportunity and allowing me to be apart [sic] of something special,” the cornerback wrote. “I appreciate everything y’all did for me.”

A four-star 2015 signee, Raymond was rated as the No. 27 corner in the country and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of Louisiana. According to 247Sports.com‘s ratings, no player in the Horned Frogs class was rated higher than Raymond.

In addition to TCU, he held offers from, among others, Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, Nebraska and Texas A&M. He took official visits to Nebraska and MSU, and a handful of unofficial visits to LSU.

After playing in 11 games as a true freshman, Raymond didn’t see the field at all in 2016. Should the defensive back land at another FBS program, he’d be forced to sit out the 2017 season. He would then have two seasons of eligibility to use beginning in 2018.