Ohio State Beats Michigan In Average Attendance

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Major college football home attendance in 2014 dipped to its lowest average in 14 years as many schools continue to struggle to fill seats.

Football Bowl Subdivision crowds for home games averaged 43,483 fans per game, down 4 percent from 2013 and the lowest since 42,631 in 2000, according to a CBSSports.com analysis of NCAA attendance data. This marked the sixth straight season crowds were below 46,000 since they peaked at 46,456 in 2008.

The data counts only home games and not neutral-site venues. Figures represent the announced crowd totals schools reported to the NCAA and not necessarily actual attendance.

This was the first year the NCAA counted attendance from six new FBS schools: Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, Charlotte, Appalachian State, Georgia State and Texas San Antonio. But even when removing those teams from the calculation, the average for returning FBS schools (44,544) would be the lowest since 2002.

The good news: 72 percent of the top 25 attendance leaders experienced increases or remained the same (all of the top 25 were from Power Five conferences or Notre Dame). The bad news: Only 48 percent of the remaining Power Five schools maintained or increased their crowd average, and many schools in smaller conferences continued to decline.

Ohio State, which averaged 106,296 fans, ended Michigan's 16-year run atop the attendance leaders. Michigan dropped to third at 104,909 behind No. 2 Texas A&M (105,123).

The biggest increases among Power Five schools: Texas A&M (21 percent), Maryland (14 percent), LSU (11 percent), Mississippi State (10 percent), Rutgers (9 percent), Florida State (9 percent) and UCLA (nine percent). Texas A&M, LSU and Mississippi State expanded their stadiums this season. Maryland and Rutgers were new Big Ten members.

The biggest decreases in the Power Five: Purdue (28 percent), Pittsburgh (17 percent), Virginia (15 percent), Kansas (10 percent), Arizona State (9 percent) and Oklahoma State (8 percent).

Three powerhouse programs continue to see declines as they've struggled to win.

 Texas dropped to 94,103 per game, down 8 percent since the Longhorns' record-breaking crowds in 2009 when they played for the national championship.

 Florida dropped out of the top 10 attendance leaders with 85,834 per game. That's the fourth straight year the Gators were under 90,000 after consistently being above that benchmark.

 Michigan is down 7 percent in only two years after peaking at 112,252 in 2012.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham, which recently became the first major program to drop football in 19 years, had the second-largest FBS increase in 2014. The Blazers averaged 21,841 fans per game, better than 36 other FBS programs and up 107 percent from last year.

Conference breakdown

SEC: Once again it led the country in attendance, averaging a record 78,018 fans. Aided by expanded stadiums and Tennessee's fan resurgence, the SEC was up 3 percent. Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt were the only SEC teams with a decrease.

Big Ten: Average attendance was 66,939, down from 70,431 last year. That's largely because of introducing Maryland and Rutgers attendance figures -- which are below most Big Ten schools -- into the conference average. Nine of the 14 Big Ten schools improved their crowds.

Big 12: There was a slight dip (1 percent) to 57,624 fans per game. Six of 10 Big 12 schools increased crowds. For the second straight year, the Big 12 had its smallest average since 2005.

Pac 12: Crowds dropped 2 percent to 52,758 and they are down 10 percent since peaking in 2007. Pac-12 attendance leader UCLA ranked 19th nationally. Only four of 12 conference schools had an increase: UCLA, Arizona, Utah and Washington State. A couple of schools' decreases were very minor.

ACC: This league again was last among Power Five schools at 50,016, although its average was up 1 percent in the first year Notre Dame played a condensed schedule against the ACC. Fresh off a national championship, Florida State saw its crowds increase by 9 percent. Half of the ACC's teams had their attendance rise.