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SEC spring attendance by the numbers

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The SEC led the nation in spring game attendance this year, and the competition was not even close when you look at the data. The SEC had a cumulative total of 508,994 at spring games this season, easily pushing past the Big Ten after seeing their rivals from the north clip them a year ago. Good weather, new coaches and traditionally strong turnouts made the SEC’s spring attendance tough to beat.

SEC Spring Attendance By School

Here is how the SEC schools stacked up against each other in the attendance game.

  1. Georgia – 93,000
  2. Alabama – 76,212
  3. Tennessee – 67,027
  4. Florida – 46,000
  5. Auburn – 45,723
  6. South Carolina – 32,916
  7. Arkansas – 30,546
  8. Kentucky – 28,441
  9. Texas A&M – 27,412
  10. Missouri – 25,000
  11. LSU – 21,000
  12. Mississippi State – 15,717

Note: Ole Miss did not hold a spring game due to stadium renovations. Vanderbilt did not report an attendance figure for its spring game, so is not included in this year’s database.

It’s a New School Record

Georgia set the bar higher than it ever has before and knocked off Alabama from its usual perch atop the spring game attendance standings in the SEC. Georgia recorded a total crowd of 93,000 for its spring game, a new school record that essentially doubled the recorded crowd from the previous spring. Speaking of which…

Biggest Increase, Biggest Drop

Georgia’s school record of 93,000 was up 46,185 fans from the 2015 spring game. There are a couple of reasons for that, and shelling out some money for a performance from Ludacris certainly did not hurt the Bulldogs here. The difference in total fans for Georgia was easily the most sizable among SEC schools, but another SEC East team actually had a larger percentage increase.

The Florida Gators more than doubled their 2015 spring attendance of 21,000 with a reported total of 46,000 fans attending the Gators spring game. It is also worth noting South Carolina saw its spring attendance boosted by roughly 10,000 fans for the first spring under new head coach Will Muschamp. Because Kentucky and Texas A&M did not hold spring game sin 2015, they do not qualify for this category.

On the flip side, Auburn had the biggest drop in spring attendance. The Tigers dipped 16,420 fans this spring. Auburn saw spring game attendance drop for the third straight season under Gus Malzahn, which some will suggest is a drop in interest or support for Malzahn. Still, the number of fans coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium was easily a top 15 crowd. It all depends on your perspective.

Arkansas also saw a noticeable drop by going down 10,674 fans from a year ago.

The LSU Mystery

LSU continues to amaze me. Few question how raucous a crowd can be at an LSU home game, but the spring game just simply isn’t the kind of draw you would think it might be. Considering the numbers other schools around the SEC tend to rack up, and the passion in the state for LSU football, continues to float in the 15,000-20,000 mark for its spring games. In the three years I have been keeping track, LSU has had 15,000 (2014), 18,565 (2015) and 21,000 (2015) for its spring game. Louisiana may love its college football and LSU, and the spring game crowd is still something a number of power conference programs would love to see, but there is just something about spring football that doesn’t quite create the buzz at LSU the way it does at Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and so on.

Quick Hits

  • Four schools ranked in the top 10 in spring attendance at the time the SEC wrapped up spring football games. Georgia (No. 2), Alabama (No. 3), Tennessee (No. 5) and Florida (No. 10) ranked in the top 10. Auburn was No. 11.
  • Coming off a national championship, Alabama saw an increase in spring game attendance.
  • Two schools with new coaches (Georgia, South Carolina) saw an increase in spring attendance while another (Missouri) dropped by roughly 5,000.

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

Phil Bennett leaves Arizona State staff

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The plan for success at Arizona State under AD Ray Anderson was to remove head coach Todd Graham and while keeping everything else the same — just with a head coach that was… better. And as we know, that head coach turned out to be Herm Edwards.

But not a week into his tenure, Edwards has already hit his first crossroads.

The Sun Devils announced Tuesday that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has left the staff over family matters.

The statement from Edwards:

“While I would have liked for Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett to remain on the coaching staff, I do appreciate the fact that he has chosen not to stay based upon family reasons,” said Edwards. “Family always comes first and right now he needs to turn his attention to that.  My top priorities right now going forward are to solidify our recruiting class and to assemble a defensive coaching staff.  Both objectives are moving along quite well.”

The question now will be who Edwards turns to as Bennett’s replacement. As we know, the new Devils coach has not coached in a decade and not coached in college in nearly three.

So this hire will be anyone’s guess.

Report: Bill Snyder to return to Kansas State in 2018

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Retirement rumors will persist about Bill Snyder until he inevitably retires, especially at this time of year. But a report from K-StateOnline on Tuesday will push those rumors back another year.

According to the site, the Wizard will return to the Kansas State sideline in 2018:

Four separate sources have now confirmed to K-StateOnline.com that Bill Snyder plans to return to coach Kansas State in 2018.

Multiple sources also said that the mood within the Vanier Football Complex and K-State program is “good” heading into bowl season – despite speculation to the contrary.

Snyder took a leave of absence in the offseason to battle throat cancer, but he returned in time for fall camp and has not missed any games this season. A report also emerged last month that former AD John Currie attempted to bring Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt aboard as a head coach-in-waiting, but the school rebutted that by stating Snyder will be the Wildcats’ head coach until he decides he’s not.

Snyder has made no secret he’d like his son, Sean Snyder, to one day succeed him, but a number of logical candidates exist in Leavitt, Brent Venables and new UTEP head coach Dana Dimel.

Now in the ninth year of his second stint as K-State head coach, Snyder owns a record of 209-110-1 with the Wildcats. He has guided the program to two Big 12 championships and six top-10 finishes, though none since 2002.

Kansas State entered this season ranked No. 18 in the AP poll but finished the regular portion at 7-5. The Wildcats will meet UCLA in the Cactus Bowl on Dec. 26 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

 

Finalists named for inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year

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Jason Witten was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012, and now his foundation is attempting to start a similar honor for college football. While the William V. Campbell Trophy goes to the nation’s best scholar-athlete and the Wuerffel Trophy honors the nation’s best community servant, no other college award attempts to recognize what the Witten Man of the Year recognizes.

And what is that, you ask?

Reads the boiler plate from the Jason Witten SCORE Foundation:

Presented annually to the Division I college football player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. The award honors the type of exemplary character and commitment to community, family and teammates demonstrated by Jason Witten, the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year and one of the most prominent role models in the game.

Nominees are gathered from the Sports Information Directors of each NCAA Division I football-playing institution. Three finalists are selected by the award’s board of directors, and the winner is selected by a panel of prominent former players and coaches, as well as members of the college football media.

The finalists were announced Tuesday, and they are:

  • Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick
  • UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin
  • Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph

“I am very excited to announce these three exceptional young men as the finalists for the inaugural Collegiate Man of the Year,” the former Tennessee tight end said in a statement. “Minkah Fitzpatrick, Shaquem Griffin and Mason Rudolph are outstanding leaders on the field, in the classroom and in the community, and they embody what the sport of college football is all about. It was a nearly impossible task to choose just three from all of the great student-athletes nominated. There are so many outstanding leaders who are great representatives for college football, and I commend all of the nominees for the tremendous example they set on and off the field.”

These types of awards seem to be just as much about honoring the namesake as they do the winner, but I doubt either of the three finalists would turn down the award if chosen.

The winner will beget a $10,000 contribution in his name to his school’s scholarship fund, and will be chosen on Feb. 22.

Jeremy Smith’s dad says RB son transferring from Louisville

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A lost 2017 season for Jeremy Smith has morphed into a departure for the player.

The father of the running back confirmed to the Louisville Courier Journal Monday night that his son has been granted a release from his Louisville scholarship. A school official subsequently confirmed Smith’s departure as well.

The senior will be leaving the football program as a graduate of the university, giving him the ability to use his final season of eligibility immediately in 2018.

Smith came to the Cardinals from the junior college ranks as a member of their 2015 recruiting class.  After rushing for 270 yards his first year, he ran for 382 (on 57 carries) in 2016.  That latter season, his eight rushing touchdowns were second on the team to Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson‘s 21.

Entering the 2017 season as the Cardinals’ top returning back, Smith suffered a foot injury during practice between the first two games of the year that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.  That injury limited him to just eight yards on five carries.