I bet most of you can’t remember back when the stands were virtually empty for a college spring football scrimmage save for a couple thousand curious, fun-seeking fans. That’s certainly not the case any more, as teams like the Big 12’s Oklahoma Sooners build an entire day of fan-fun activities around the spring game, which marks the official conclusion of NCAA-authorized offseason spring practice sessions.
In fact, there used to be a time when some of the schools would stage spring scrimmages pitting the current varsity against football alumni. This was always an interesting format because fans got to see current players going against an ad-hoc group of players who donned the school colors in the the past.
Flash forward to the present, if not big business, the annual spring scrimmage game has definitely become a big event for major college programs around the country. It not only gets interest in college football going again after three-to-four months on the sideline, but also serves as a nice revenue opportunity as part of the spring practice schedule.Jan 2, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph (10) throws a pass in the second quarter against the Washington Huskies in the 2015 Cactus Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma drew a crowd reported to be 42,807 at this years spring game on April 11. That attendance figure was the best in the Big 12 among the seven schools reporting a spring game crowd figure, according to an article Tuesday in the Oklahoma City Oklahoman newspaper.
That attendance number ranks the Sooners as the 10th best nationally among Football Bowl Subdivision schools. According to 247Sports.com, reigning national champion Ohio State packed 99,391 into the Horseshoe in Columbus this spring for this first public look at the Buckeyes to lead all schools. Another Big Ten school, former Big 12 member Nebraska, was No. 2 (76,881), followed by Penn State (68.000), Alabama (65,175) and Tennessee (63,016).
Along with Oklahoma, five Big Ten schools and four out of the Southeastern Conference make up the top 10 in spring attendance.
There are a number of variables that contribute to attendance at spring football games, writes Kevin Ryan of 247Sports.com. These include ticket price, coaching staff changes, new stadium or stadium changes, ancillary events associated with the game, weather and, of course, outlook for the team in the new season.
Ryan also notes that reporting attendance data for spring games is relatively new situation. Data on spring football attendance is very rare back more than 10 years ago, according to Ryan’s research.
Both Oklahoma schools led the Big 12 in spring game attendance. Oklahoma State reported 16,000 in attendance at its spring football scrimmage, ranking the Cowboys’ 20th best in the country.
247Sports.com reports that the largest attendance figure historically for a spring game was the crowd number at Ohio State this spring. Ohio State also owns the second-best all-time spring attendance number (95,722 in 2009). The next four attendance rankings on the all-time list for spring games are all owned by Alabama.
2015 Big 12 Spring Football Game Attendance Figures
(Preceded by national ranking)
10. Oklahoma – 42,807
20. Oklahoma State – 16,000
32. TCU – 10,000
36. West Virginia – 8,175
38. Iowa State – 7,500
40. Kansas – 6,227
41. Baylor – 5,610
Figures for Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas State were not available. Kansas State held its spring game at Sporting Park (home of Sporting Kansas City of the MLS) in Kansas City Kan.