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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.

Wisconsin receiver Aron Cruickshank transfers to Rutgers

Wisconsin receiver Aron Cruickshank is transferring to Rutgers.
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Former Wisconsin wide receiver Aron Cruickshank may be leaving the Badgers, but he will remain in the Big Ten. Cruickshank announced he is transferring to Rutgers.

Cruickshank confirmed his transfer to Rutgers with a post on his Instagram account on Saturday afternoon. According to NJ.com, Cruickshank was making an official visit to Rutgers this weekend. The visit must have gone well because he announced his transfer decision on the same day. Cruickshank announced his entry to the transfer portal earlier this month.

This is a nice addition for new (again) Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. If the hiring of Schiano was supposed to entice more talent in and around The Garden State to want to stay close to home to play Big Ten football, then the transfer decision of Cruickshank is an encouraging start for the Scarlet Knights. Cruickshank is a Brooklyn, New York native, and Rutgers does love to attach itself to the New York metropolitan region.

Cruickshank appeared in all 14 games played by Wisconsin in the 2019 season, including all 12 regular-season games, the Big Ten championship game, and the Rose Bowl. Cruickshank was used mostly on special teams with 23 kickoff returns for 674 yards and two touchdowns. Cruickshank had one of his kickoff touchdowns in the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon. He returned four kickoffs for 194 yards in the game. He also returned one kickoff to the house earlier in the season at Nebraska.

Cruickshank will have to sit out the 2020 season due to NCAA transfer rules. That will leave the former Badgers receiver with two years of eligibility beginning in 2021.

Texas brings Jay Boulware home from Oklahoma

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Jay Boulware is crossing sides in the Red River Rivalry… again. Boulware officially joined the Texas coaching staff on Saturday, the school announced. Boulware will be the special teams and tight ends coach for the Longhorns.

“Jay is a proven, accomplished coach and special teams coordinator who as a former Longhorn and Texas native, has deep roots in our state,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said in a released statement. “He also has extensive experience coaching in the Big 12, having spent a decade in our league, and has worked with teams that have competed at the highest level, including a National Championship team at Auburn in 2010.”

“I’ve been watching this program from afar since the day I left there in the spring of 1997, and I’ve always had it in my mind that I would like to come back someday and help Texas win a National Championship,” Boulware said in his released statement.

Boulware comes to Texas from rival Oklahoma. Boulware coached with the Sooners from 2013 through last season and was a part of multiple Big 12 championship teams and a program that participated in the College Football Playoff each of the past two seasons. Boulware was Oklahoma’s special teams and running backs during the last seven seasons. HE previously coached tight ends at Texas, NIU, Arizona, Utah, and Auburn.

Boulware started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Longhorns in 2014. He eventually was named tight ends coach and spent three seasons with his alma mater (Boulware played offensive tackle for Texas in 1991 and 1992). His coaching stops have included Northern Illinois, Arizona, Stanford, Utah and Iowa State, where he joined Gene Chizik and followed him to Auburn. In 2013, Boulware was hired by Wisconsin to be a part of a new staff being compiled by Gary Andersen, but he left the Badgers for Oklahoma just months later.

Clemson DT Xavier Kelly announces entry to transfer portal

Clemson redshirt junior Xavier Kelly will leave Clemson as a graduate transfer.
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Defensive tackle Xavier Kelly will no longer be a part of the Clemson football program. The redshirt junior announced he has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will look for another school to wrap up his collegiate career.

“I have never shied away from hard work or a challenge. My time at Clemson was a challenge that I happily accepted, [and I] worked hard to be the best defensive lineman, teammate and student I could be,” Kelly said in a statement shared on his Twitter account on Saturday afternoon.

“With this being said, I have decided to enter the transfer portal and continue my football career elsewhere. It is an honor to be able to say that I graduated from Clemson. Clemson will always have a special place in my heart.”

Kelly was listed third on the Clemson depth chart for one of the team’s two defensive tackle positions. Kelly appeared as a backup option behind freshman Tyler Davis and redshirt sophomore Jordan Williams. Kelly appeared in 10 games in the 2019 season and recorded a total of six tackles with credit for half of a sack. Kelly did not play in either of Clemson’s game sin the College Football Playoff.

In 2016, Kelly was involved in a moped accident that resulted in stitches. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said at the time Kelly was not wearing a helmet when somebody crashed into his moped.

By entering the transfer portal, Kelly is free to have contact with any other college football program interested in recruiting him. As a graduate transfer, Kelly will be able to use his final year of eligibility in 2020 and will not have to sit out the 2019 season.

Bob Shoop and Brian Jean-Mary join Michigan coaching staff, Jay Harbaugh promoted to special teams coordinator

Brian Jean-Mary and Bob Shoop are the newest members of Michigan's coaching staff.
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Michigan has officially introduced two new defensive assistants to the staff. Brian Jean-Mary and Bob Shoop were added to the defensive side of the coaching staff on Saturday as Michigan continues to retool its coaching staff this offseason.

According to the release from Michigan on Saturday, Shoop will take on the role of safeties coach for the Wolverines. Jean-Mary will serve as linebackers coach. In addition, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh promoted his son, Jay Harbaugh, to special teams coordinator. Harbaugh will continue to coach the running backs as well.

“I am excited about the addition of Brian and Bob to our defensive coaching staff,” said Harbaugh. “Brian and Bob are well-respected, experienced coaches who represent great fits for the University of Michigan. Both coaches have experience coordinating some of the best defenses in the country, and their development of all-conference and future NFL players throughout their careers will benefit our program and student-athletes. Michigan Football looks forward to having Brian, Bob and their families join the University family.”

Jean-Mary joins the Michigan program after three seasons with former USF head coach Charlie Strong at USF. Jean-Mary has been a longtime assistant under Strong, coaching with Strong at Louisville and Texas prior to USF.

Shoop previously was the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. This will mark a return to the Big Ten for Shoop. Shoop previously coached at Penn State under James Franklin. Shoop went to Penn State with Franklin after three seasons at Vanderbilt. Shoop left Penn State for Tennessee after the 2015 season and coached the Vols defense for two seasons for former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones. Shoop and Penn State also carried on a bit of a legal squabble over Shoop’s contract and his exit from the Nittany Lions. Shoop took a job at Mississippi State when Joe Moorhead was hired (in the same coaching carousel that saw a coaching change at Tennessee and the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt, a former defensive coordinator himself).