FCS attendance average drops slightly in 2017
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - The average attendance at FCS games dropped by less than 2 percent this past season, although the number of overall fans rose slightly to over 5.5 million because there were more games than in 2016.
The NCAA's release of its annual attendance report on Thursday reflected the average FCS crowd size was 8,223, down 134 per game from 8,357 in the 2016 season. The 670 games, based on home and neutral-site attendance plus the FCS championship game, drew 5,509,277 fans (neutral-site games between FBS and FCS teams are included for FBS attendance figures, not the FCS). A year earlier, 5,473,956 fans attended 655 FCS games.
The 23-game playoffs, included in the statistics, drew 222,424 fans, an increase of over 10 percent from 2016.
Montana remains the heavyweight in FCS attendance even as it's missed the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1991-92. The Grizzlies led the subdivision for the third straight season and the sixth time in the last decade while averaging 23,535 over six home games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. However, that was a 7.3 percent drop from the school's 2016 average of 25,377.
James Madison was the FCS leader in regular-season attendance average (24,841) at Bridgeforth Stadium, but three playoff games dropped the Dukes to No. 2 overall at 21,724.
Rounding out the top 10 in average attendance were Florida A&M (19,048, four games), Yale (18,940, five), Montana State (18,617, six), Jacksonville State (18,388, sixth), national champion North Dakota State (18,333, nine), Prairie View A&M (17,803, five), Delaware (16,648, six) and North Carolina A&T (15,697, five).
Half of the schools in the attendance top 20 were HBCUs - historically black colleges and universities. That helped the Southwestern Athletic Conference to average an FCS-high 13,694 fans per game, with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference ranking fifth out of 13 conferences at 9,450.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference (10,697) was second, the Big Sky Conference (9,927) third and the Colonial Athletic Association (9,825) fourth.
Attendance has been declining across college football. The FBS suffered a drop in average attendance for the fourth straight season to 42.203, while Division II and III also suffered slight losses.
Updated February 8, 2018