Penn State's attendance down again

Penn State football games averaged 96,730 fans per game this season at Beaver Stadium, the worst average crowd since a $93 million expansion completed in 2001 added some 13,000 seats and brought capacity to more than 107,000.

It's an easy conclusion to make that much of the decline had to do with the child-sexual abuse scandal of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, whose actions and reactions by school administrators resulted in sanctions, including the team's postseason ineligibility this season and the following three seasons.

But that's actually only part of the reason why fewer fans showed up.

The 2012 season marks the fifth straight year of attendance declines at Beaver Stadium after the team drew an average of 108,917 fans in 2007. Average attendance dropped to 108,254 in 2008, 107,008 in 2009, 104,234 in 2010 and 101,427 during last season.

Declines in the past two seasons were aided by new donation requirements before the 2011 season that weren't well received. After seeing the empty seats midway through this season, the athletic department announced it wouldn't increase its season-ticket prices or donation levels for next season and would add a lower level of boosters at a $200 price point.

Despite the sanctions and the transfers, including starting running back Silas Redd to USC, Penn State finished the season a respectable 8-4 under first-year coach Bill O'Brien, with a 24-21 overtime victory against Wisconsin on Saturday.

Even with fewer fans in the stands, Penn State will finish fifth in the country in average attendance behind Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama and Texas.

The stadium capacity was reduced from 107,282 seats to 106,572 in 2011 to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.