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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.

Reports indicate Florida State starting RT Josh Ball could be suspended for all of the 2018 season

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Florida State’s offensive line may have been dealt a rather significant blow a couple of months before summer camp kicks off.

In November of last year, reports surfaced that Sandra Sellers, an FSU student who dated Seminoles football player Josh Ball for a year and a half, had accused the offensive lineman of dating violence, including allegations that he physically attacked her on at least three occasions.  Tuesday, Warchant.com reported that, in connection to those allegations, Ball has been suspended from the university after a ruling by the school’s judicial panel.

At this point in time, it’s unclear how long Ball’s suspension will last.  According to a since-deleted social media post made by the alleged victim, however, Ball will miss the entire 2018 season.

From the Tallahassee Democrat:

Sellers posted to her public page on social media that she was happy the matter was concluded and that she will now be able to enjoy football season because she will not see Ball on the field.

“This long journey has finally come to an end!” Sellers wrote in the post that has since been deleted.

“After two long days of testifying and two agonizing weeks of waiting for this letter, it’s finally here. Thank you FSU for making campus a better place. Stand up for yourself and stand strong. God doesn’t put you through obstacles that you can’t learn and grow from.

“Thank you to all my family, friends and amazing boyfriend for having to hear about all these cases over and over again and consistently standing by me in my decision to continue to pursue charges. So cheers to finally being able to close this chapter of my life for good and to being able to enjoy football season, and not seeing him on the field!

Warchant.com notes that “Ball was not charged by the Tallahassee Police or the state attorney’s office following Sellers’ complaint” in connection to the allegations.

As of yet, neither the university nor the athletic department has confirmed Sellers’ version of Ball’s status with the team. Sellers’ attorney Leonardo Arias Vera told the Democrat he could not comment on the situation.

Ball started the last nine games of the 2017 season at left tackle for the Seminoles.  Exiting spring practice this year, and with last year’s starter Rick Leonard no longer around due to expired eligibility, the redshirt sophomore was penciled in as FSU’s starting right tackle.

RB Jawon Hamilton transferring from UCF to FCS James Madison

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For the second time this offseason, UCF and new head coach Josh Heupel have a seen a running back depart the football program.

In January, Cordarrian Richardson decided to transfer to Texas A&M, a move he still plans to make despite some uncertainty of late.  On Instagram four months later, former teammate and backfield mate Jawon Hamilton made a similar move, revealing on the social media website that he’ll be transferring from the Knights.

Not only that, but the back revealed his transfer destination in the missive — FCS powerhouse James Madison.

Because of the move down a level, Hamilton will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.  He’ll be a redshirt sophomore this coming season.

God’s Plan ☝🏾 #GoDukes🐶💛💜

A post shared by @ jawonhamilton1 on

As a true freshman in 2016, Hamilton led the Knights with 495 yards on the ground. A knee injury sustained in the second game of the 2017 season sidelined Hamilton for the remainder of the year.

The Orlando Sentinel wrote that Hamilton “missed all of spring practice after being suspended by [former head coach Scott] Frost’s staff for an undisclosed violation of team rules” and “[t]he suspension continued” under Heupel.

Florida, USF schedule three-game series, including one in Tampa

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When it comes to scheduling arrangements involving a Power Five and Group of Five program, this is certainly an interesting one.

Both Florida and USF announced Tuesday a future series between the two schools.  As part of the three-game series, the Bulls will travel to Gainesville’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for two of the matchups — Sept. 17, 2022, and Sept. 6, 2025.  In between is the interesting aspect as the Gators will make the trek south to play at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 9, 2023.

That latter game will mark the first time ever the two teams will square off in Tampa.

“We are very excited for our program and our fans to add three games against the University of Florida to our schedule,” a statement from USF athletic director Mark Harlan began. “I would like to thank Coach Strong for his desire to play a challenging non-conference schedule and the leadership at Florida for their partnership in making this happen. We are committed to scheduling opponents that our fans are excited to see the Bulls compete against and Florida certainly ranks very high on that list.”

“This is a unique scheduling opportunity that allows us to get three games against a quality FBS opponent, with two at home and one in a great venue in Tampa,” Harlan’s UF counterpart, Scott Stricklin, said in his statement. “A lot of Gator fans will have the opportunity to attend that game and we are looking forward to being able to play a regular-season game in central Florida.”

The two teams have met just once previously. In Week 2 of the 2010 season, the Gators dropped the Bulls 38-14 in The Swamp in what turned out to be Urban Meyer‘s final season with the program.

Charlie Strong, the current USF head coach, was in his first season in the same job at Louisville that year after spending the previous seven seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Gators.  UF’s current head coach, Dan Mullen, spent four years as Meyer’s offensive coordinator before taking over at Mississippi State in 2009.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to host South Florida twice in The Swamp and also play them in Raymond James Stadium,” Mullen said. “The Tampa/St. Petersburg area is an important recruiting footprint for us and our players will love playing another game in an NFL stadium.”

Alabama continues to block grad transfer Brandon Kennedy

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Continued kudos, Alabama.

Earlier this month, Brandon Kennedy opted to leave Alabama as a graduate transfer.  The offensive lineman, as it turns out, is interested in a transfer to Alabama rivals Auburn and Tennessee; as has been the case in the pastor not — Kennedy has been barred by UA from transferring to any other school in the conference despite the fact that he’s a graduate transfer.

Kennedy, a graduate transfer, appealed the initial decision that blocked him from an intra-conference move.  In a stunning turn of events, that initial appeal has been denied by the university.

Al.com writes that “[t]he next step for Kennedy, who graduated in December, is an in-person hearing with Alabama’s appeal board.” As noted by the website, Kennedy graduated from the university in December, which makes him a graduate transfer.

When that in-person hearing in front of Alabama’s appeals board will take place for the student-athlete who has already graduated is unclear.

Kennedy, prior to becoming a graduate transfer, served as the Crimson’s Tide backup center in 2017, his redshirt sophomore season.  After graduating in December, Kennedy exited spring practice this year as the defending national champion’s likely No. 2 center.

As a graduate transfer, Kennedy would have a two-year eligibility clock that begins immediately with the 2018 season even if he stays in the FBS.

On a completely related note…

Since last summer, at least two players have transferred within the SEC. In June of 2017, running back David Williams moved from South Carolina to Arkansas. Earlier this month, defensive back Nick Harvey left Texas A&M and chose South Carolina over, among others, Auburn and Tennessee.

Both Williams and Harvey left their former schools as graduate transfers.

Kudos, Alabama.  Still.