Does College Football Get Bigger Crowds Than The NFL? Why?

Football tradition in the United States only grows in popularity each year. But what’s more popular, and does college football get bigger crowds than the NFL?

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Does College Football Get Bigger Crowds Than The NFL?

The top 32 college football teams get bigger crowds than the average team in the NFL. The stadiums were built 100 years ago and have much more seating capacity than the modern NFL stadiums full of amenities. These schools also have large enrollments and need seating for students. 

Each weekend in the fall, college football stadiums across the United States fill up with enthusiastic fans rooting for their school. On game days, millions of people flock to cheer on their teams and create a fantastic atmosphere.

But does college football attract bigger crowds than professional gridiron? Let’s compare some numbers from leagues to get an idea.

According to the FBS attendance trends, the top college football programs significantly outpace all NFL teams in attendance. Teams like Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, LSU, Tennessee, and Texas averaged over 100,000 fans per game. 

In the NFL, 0 teams averaged over 100,000 fans. The stadiums are smaller in the NFL, and the only team close to these numbers was the Dallas Cowboys at roughly 93,000 per game. 

The numbers change when looking at different FBS conferences. However, the Power 5 conferences will outpace the average attendance at most NFL stadiums. 

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Why Does College Football Get Bigger Crowds Than The NFL?

Several factors come into play, making it difficult to measure precisely how much bigger one is than the other regarding fan interest in numbers attending games each year. 

There are also hundreds of college football teams and only 32 NFL teams. If we were to compare the top 32 college football programs in attendance to the NFL, college would win. 

These schools draw bigger crowds because they have old stadiums built with many more seats. They also have substantial student sections and many students enrolled on campus, only a short walk from the stadium. 

College Football Vs. NFL Attendance Comparison

The easiest way to see who gets the bigger crowds is by analyzing the average game attendance. We have compared both college and the NFL below. 

College Football Average Attendance 

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According to the FBS, the following attendance leaders are listed below. Top-rated Big Ten programs like Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State lead the way because they have old stadiums with huge capacity limits. 

The top 15 college football schools get a bigger crowd than any NFL team. Most schools get around the same or slightly higher crowds than the average NFL franchise. 

However, the bottom teams in college football will get much smaller crowds. These schools don’t have the results, players, or resources to compete with teams like Michigan or NFL teams like the Dallas Cowboys in crowd size. 

Below we have listed the average attendance according to data collected by D1ticker

SchoolConferenceAvg. Attendance
MichiganBig Ten110,246
Penn StateBig Ten107,379
Ohio StateBig Ten104,663
TexasBig 12100,242
Texas A&MSEC97,213
NebraskaBig Ten86,637
OklahomaBig 1283,835
Notre DameIndependent76,193
South CarolinaSEC75,785
WisconsinBig Ten74,159
IowaBig Ten69,250
Michigan StateBig Ten69,047
Florida StateACC67,254
Virginia TechACC64,356
Ole MissSEC62,575

NFL Average Attendance

NFL attendance is mainly based on stadium capacity, not popularity. Dallas can hold about 100,000 fans, averaging over 93,000 per game. 

The larger NFL franchises generally averaged around 60,000-70,000 per game. In college, teams have many more seats inside the stadiums and are less luxurious than many newly built NFL stadiums.

Below is the average attendance for each team, according to ESPN

NFL TeamAvg. Attendance
NY Jets78,009
NY Giants76,474
Green Bay76,180
Kansas City73,499
Los Angeles72,734
San Francisco71,629
Los Angeles69,955
Tampa Bay68,988
New Orleans68,987
New England65,878
Las Vegas62,045

College Football Vs. NFL: What Is More Popular? 

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Despite the differences in crowd size at the games, the NFL wins the popularity contest between the two leagues. 

TV viewership will tell us that the NFL is far and away the most popular TV program and sport in the United States. 

For example, the 2022 College Football Playoff game between Georgia and Ohio State drew 22 million viewers. This is an impressive nightmare and is ranked as one of the best college games ever. 

In comparison, the Super Bowl draws around 100 million viewers per year. Another interesting stat is no regular season college football game gets over 9 million viewers besides Ohio State vs. Michigan. 

This is not true for the NFL. Every Sunday, the NFL draws an average of 18.5 million viewers during Sunday Night Football. While college may get bigger crowds, the NFL is still the king. 

Key Takeaways

  • College football does get bigger crowds than the NFL at the higher levels. The top 32 teams outpace the 32 NFL teams in attendance. 
  • Despite the attendance differences, the NFL is still much more popular and averages significantly higher viewers for nationally televised games. 
  • The highest attendance in college is Michigan at 110,246 per game and the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL at 93,465 per game. 

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