We looked last week at how the Big Ten was faring in spring game attendance. Well, the final numbers are in -- and they're even more impressive than before.
Not only did the Big Ten finish 1-2-3 in spring game crowds, with Ohio State setting a national record (99,391), but the conference also claimed five of the top eight spots and narrowly beat out the SEC in total attendance.
According to CFT's Kevin McGuire, the Big Ten boasted a total attendance of 410,943 while the SEC had 408,566. (No other conference came close.) Granted, Texas A&M likely would have boosted those numbers quite a bit if it held a spring game. But keep in mind that current figures were available for 12 SEC teams and just 11 B1G teams.
Here's a list of the Big Ten's top spring crowds (and their national rankings in parentheses), once again courtesy of CFT:
1. (1.) Ohio State 99,391
2. (2.) Nebraska 76,881
3. (3.) Penn State 68,000
4. (7.) Michigan 60,000
5. (8.) Michigan State 48,000
6. (22.) Rutgers 15,782
7. (29.) Minnesota 10,100
8. (31.) Indiana 10,014
9. (34.) Wisconsin 9,630
10. (37.) Iowa 8,000
11. (42.) Purdue 5,145
Not available: Illinois, Northwestern, Maryland
It's surprising how many teams saw significant increases compared to last season. Michigan State set a school record, Michigan quadrupled its attendance, Minnesota doubled its crowd and Ohio State and Nebraska saw a combined 53,442 more fans. (Only Purdue and Penn State saw smaller crowds this season, and the Nittany Lions had the novelty of a new head coach in 2014.)
The biggest surprise -- to me -- continues to be how small the crowds are for Wisconsin. The atmosphere at a home game there is incredible. But the spring game has never been a big draw, and I don't buy athletic director Barry Alvarez's excuse that, "There's too many things to do in Madison."
Wisconsin State Journal's Andy Baggott tried to explain the phenomenon by touching on several different reasons, including the fact that 25 percent of season ticket-holders "travel at least 200 miles round-trip for home games." So maybe that has something to do with it.
Regardless, even the Badgers saw a slight increase -- from 8,204 to 9,630 -- in what proved to be a record-breaking spring for the Big Ten.