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.
- Ohio State – 100,189
- Nebraska – 72,992
- Penn State – 65,000
- Michigan State – 51,000
- Michigan – 35,000
- Iowa – 18,460
- Rutgers – 14,177
- Wisconsin – 9,181
- Purdue – 5,050
- 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.
- 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.