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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.

UNLV ‘very excited’ to share Las Vegas stadium with Raiders

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The biggest news of the day in the NFL has a decidedly college football connection.

By a 31-1 vote, NFL owners approved the Raiders move from Oakland to Las Vegas later this decade.  The new stadium that will eventually serve as the home for the NFL club is expected to be ready for play for the 2020 season.

As expected, it will also serve as the new home for Sin City’s FBS team, a fact that UNLV’s hierarchy was quick to point out and highlight in the hours after the vote was officially confirmed.  Below are the statements from the three main characters involved with the football program.

Len Jessup, UNLV President
UNLV and the entire Rebel family welcome the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. We look forward to a long-term partnership with the Raiders and the Stadium Authority Board to give UNLV football access to a world-class stadium and accompanying game day experience that will rival the best in college football. We also recognize and thank the numerous stakeholders – including the Adelson family – who invested their time and energy toward this vision. This is an historic day for Nevada and another example of how Las Vegas continues to reinvent itself.

Tina Kunzer-Murphy, UNLV Athletics Director
We are very excited to welcome the Raiders to our great city of Las Vegas. Our community is on the rise and that has clearly been recognized by the NFL owners with today’s vote. We can’t wait for the day our UNLV football program has a new home, sharing the new world-class stadium with the Las Vegas Raiders. What a great day for the NFL, our city and our university.

Tony Sanchez, UNLV Football Head Coach
Today is a huge development for UNLV Football and the city of Las Vegas. Sharing a state-of-the-art stadium with the Raiders is another thing that will allow us to recruit at a high level. The combination of an NFL stadium and our upcoming Fertitta Football Complex brings so much energy to this program and campus. As someone who has lived here for eight years, I’m also excited for this community. This is a great place to live and the pride of being an NFL city will make it an even better place.

In addition to being tenants in a new state-of-the-art stadium, the university will soon begin construction on an on-campus football practice facility.

There are five FBS teams that will share stadiums with NFL teams on at least a part-time basis in 2017 — UMass (New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium), Miami (Miami Dolphins, Sun Life Stadium), Temple (Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field), Pitt (Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field) and USF (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raymond James Stadium).  Georgia State had shared the Georgia Dome with the Atlanta Falcons but are moving to the new Turner Field this season, while San Diego State will still call Qualcomm Stadium home even as the Chargers have bolted the facility for Los Angeles.

There has been chatter that both Temple (HERE) and USF (HERE) could find themselves in a position to build an on-campus stadium at some point down the road — although the latter could extend its agreement with its current home as it continues to evaluate its long-term plans.

The Los Angles Rams are also temporarily crashing at the home of the USC Trojans, Memorial Coliseum, until their new stadium is completed.

Kaylee Hartung leaves ESPN sidelines for CNN

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ESPN’s roster of college football talent has taken a bath lately. Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman broke up their critically acclaimed team for NFL work at different networks. Brad Nessler left for CBS. Brent Musuberger left for Vegas. Samantha Ponder has joined McDonough on the Worldwide Leader’s NFL team and, now, Kaylee Hartung is leaving the network as well.

Hartung confirmed her departure from ESPN on Monday. Though she did not name her next employer, it’s been an open secret within the industry for nearly a month Hartung will leave for CNN.

“Last night I worked my final event with ESPN,” Hartung announced on her Twitter page. “The decision to leave a job I love and take on a new challenge has been incredibly emotional but the overwhelming feeling I have today is gratitude. I am so grateful for the experience I’ve had within the ESPN family for 5 years. I’m grateful for the people I’ve worked with who have supported me, made me a better reporter, made me a better person and became my friends. I’m grateful for the coaches, athletes, staffers, and university officials who’ve shared their stories with me and let me be a part of their magical moments. I’m grateful for the fans who have embraced me and shared their passion with me. Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of my life during this incredibly fun and exciting chapter. I can’t wait to see what this next chapter has in store… Now I get to be a fan of you all!”

Hartung started with Longhorn Network and since moved to SEC Network and the mothership. Her final event for the network was Sunday night’s Women’s Elite Eight match between Mississippi State and Baylor. Hartung worked in the political media prior to landing with the Longhorn Network as an associate producer for the CBS program Face the Nation.

Final Four forces South Carolina to postpone indoor facility groundbreaking

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File this one under the most first world of all problems: the South Carolina football program is having to adjust its plans because the Gamecocks’ basketball team has been more successful than anticipated.

With Frank Martin‘s hoops headed to Phoenix for this weekend’s Final Four and taking all the Palmetto State’s attention with them, Will Muschamp‘s football program has been forced to alter what had been a big day planned.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to break ground on their announced indoor practice facility; those plans have now been postponed.

With only six days between South Carolina’s clinching of a Final Four berth and the football team’s planned Garnet-White game, the spring game will have to remain slated for Saturday. But it has been bumped forward to a noon kickoff.

Muschamp did not make the trip to Madison Square Garden for Sunday’s Elite Eight win (Florida’s Jim McElwain was in attendance) and Saturday’s spring game will also preclude his attendance, meaning the head football coach must wait until a possible national championship berth to support the basketball team in person.

With Brandon Harris off the board, Texas reportedly looking at former ND QB Malik Zaire

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Texas pursued former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, but Harris is no longer interested in being pursued.

After Harris’s commitment to North Carolina, Tom Herman has reportedly turned his interests to the next logical choice in the graduate transfer market — former Notre Dame signal caller Malik Zaire.

The news comes from Chip Brown of Horns Digest who, unfortunately hid the goods behind a pay wall.

The move would be an interesting one considering Zaire’s history with the Longhorns. Zaire played like a Heisman candidate in a 38-3 crunching of Texas on the opening night of the 2015 season, hitting 19-of-22 passes for 313 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. As we know, Zaire was lost for the year to a broken ankle one week later, but managed to win back the starting job in training camp before the ’16 season.

Zaire didn’t last long, though, hitting 2-of-5 passes for 23 yards while being credited for no gain on three rushes, giving way to DeShone Kizer in an eventual 50-47 double overtime loss to the Longhorns in Austin to open last season.

Zaire would toss only 18 more passes as a Fighting Irish quarterback.

If Zaire reciprocates Herman’s interest he would immediately join an open quarterback battle with incumbent Shane Buechele and true freshman Sam Ehlinger. At the time of his South Bend departure Zaire was reportedly considering Wisconsin, Baylor and recently off-the-market North Carolina.