BY JEREMY HOECK
According to the figures released by the NCAA, college football set a record in 2013 for total attendance across all levels — from Football Bowl Subdivision on down to the Division III ranks.
And regionally, the Missouri Valley Football Conference was one of three FCS leagues to break its attendance record.
Of course, when you have the likes of North Dakota State, the three-time defending national champion, leading the way, it’s no surprise.
The Bison played in front of an average of 18,622 fans per home game last season, including the playoffs. That ranks NDSU seventh among all FCS schools, which is far and away the highest number in the Missouri Valley.
Youngstown State and Northern Iowa, ranked 16 and 18, respectively, followed by South Dakota State in the top 25.
Though it set a new league record for overall attendance at 664,775 last fall, the Missouri Valley ranked third among FCS leagues for game averages. The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) led the way with a 12,415 average, followed by the Southern Conference at 11,623.
Missouri Valley schools drew an average of 10,722 fans per home game, which was a decrease of nearly 350 from the previous season.
Interestingly, a number of FCS schools out-drew their FBS counterparts. For example, Eastern Michigan had the lowest average attendance among the top-level programs at 4,051 — it would rank last in the Missouri Valley.
North Dakota State, meanwhile, drew more fans last season than 21 FBS schools.
The University of South Dakota drew 48,568 fans over six home games last season, for an average of 8,095. Numbers were, again, rather up and down at the DakotaDome.
USD had 8,012 fans for its season opener against UC Davis, and then had 9,758 fans at its homecoming game against Missouri State. From there, the Coyotes had attendances of 6,710 and 6,676 and 6,567 before a sellout crowd of 10,845 for South Dakota State.
Consistency, obviously, is the key in Vermillion. Fans have proven they will come out to ‘big’ games, but the ‘average’ games are not reaching the 7,000 threshold. That’s the next step for a school that wants to expand its home football seating.
Here are the top 10 FCS leaders by average:
1. Appalachian State (24,894)
2. Montana (24,380)
3. James Madison (21,011)
4. Southern (20,107)
5. Yale (19,809)
6. Montana State (19,704)
7. North Dakota State (18,622)
8. Delaware (18,108)
9. Jackson State (17,286)
10. Jacksonville State (15,814)
The rest of the MVFC schools by average
16. Youngstown State (13,506)
18. Northern Iowa (12,572)
25. South Dakota State (10,694)
26. Illinois State (10,139)
NR. Missouri State (8,700)
NR. Southern Illinois (8,554)
NR. South Dakota (8,095)
NR. Western Illinois (5,525)
NR. Indiana State (5,422)