Football fans have empty feeling

Football fans have empty feeling

Opening weekend crowds
Five biggest
Michigan    106,811
Tennessee    102,455
Texas    93,201
Georgia    92,746
Nebraska    91,441
COMMENT: Big Ten would have had two more on this list, but Ohio State played Navy at Baltimore and Penn State played Central Florida in Ireland. The Wolverines played their 252nd straight game with at least 100,0000 of their closest friends. Nebraska’s sellout streak is at 334 and counting. They like their football as much as they like their Runzas.

Five smallest
Duke    31,213
Vanderbilt    31,731
Northwestern    34,228
Illinois    36,234
Purdue    37,031
COMMENT: If you based the numbers on percentage of capacity, Illinois would find itself second behind Purdue. Illinois claimed there were 36,234. But veteran observers thought the number was inflated. A lot.

Illinois home openers
76,369    1985    Southern Cal
75,753    1984    Northwestern
72,852    1983    Stanford
72,822    1986    Louisville
70,193    1995    Michigan
70,060    1987    Arizona State
COMMENT: The ‘80s belonged to the Illini. At least at the ticket window. Five of the six biggest opening-day crowds in school history came during White’s time as coach. It didn’t hurt any that he had a prolific passing offense and a basketful of talented skill players.

67,036    1982    Northwestern
64,351    1990    Colorado
64,305    1994    Missouri
62,347    2009    Illinois State
61,553    1989    Utah State
60,131    2008    Eastern Illinois
COMMENT: Surprisingly, the biggest opening-day crowd of the Ron Zook tenure didn’t come the year after the Rose Bowl. It came following a disappointing 5-7 season in 2008 (loss to Western Michigan, no bowl).

57,579    1981    Syracuse
56,504    1996    Southern Cal
56,304    2003    Illinois State
54,458    1988    Washington State
52,217    2010    Southern Illinois
51,110    1993    Arizona
50,112    2005    Rutgers
50,015    1992    Northern Illinois
COMMENT: Although John Mackovic’s opener against Washington State was a stinker, it wasn’t as close to as bad as the 1996 blowout loss to the Trojans (55-3). That was the final home opener for Lou Tepper, who was fired late in the season and replaced by Ron Turner.

48,301    2007    Western Illinois
46,313    1991    East Carolina
46,258    2002    Arkansas State
46,106    2004    Florida A&M
45,674    2001    Northern Illinois
45,444    2006    Eastern Illinois
45,154    2011    Arkansas State
44,519    1997    Southern Miss    
44,222    1980    Northwestern
43,441    2012    Western Mich.
42,175    2013    Southern Illinois
COMMENT: Perhaps Illinois likes the smaller crowds. Other than the game against Southern Miss, the Illini are 10-1 when they attract between 40,000 to 50,000 curious onlookers in openers.

36,234    2014    Youngstown State
35,475    1998    Middle Tenn.
35,032    2000    Middle Tenn.
34,227    1999    Arkansas State
COMMENT: A mix of current FCS and FBS schools. Note that Illinois draws more fans when it plays schools with higher local interest (Illinois State, Eastern Illinois, etc.)

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Jam wrote on September 02, 2014 at 10:09 pm

So I guess this makes a good article, but why harp on the attendance.  Nothing you say will make people attend. When the UI starts winning games at home consistently then fans will come back.

illini82 wrote on September 03, 2014 at 8:09 am

Mike Thomas has to know that as bad as attendance was last week and as bad as it has been under the tenure of Beckman that it'll get worse...much worse if Beckman remains and they fail to get to at least 6 wins and a minor bowl. It'll be bad even he reaches 6 wins and a bowl.

The fan base has absolutley ZERO confidence, trust and respect for Beckman. None. But again this epic failure of a coaching hire in Beckman falls squarely on the shoulders of Mike Thomas who was brought in PRIMARILY to fix football! He sure fixed it alright. 

Meanwhile our Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl opponent from a few years ago, UCLA, is ranked in the top 15.

Guess they made a better choice.

College football: At many universities football matters but at Illinois...not so much. Not in the last 50 years anyway.

IlliniOllie wrote on September 03, 2014 at 11:09 am

To be fair, those 61,000+ crowds will never happen again for any game, because instead of trying to build back up to bigger crowds through success on the field, our previous AD removed over 10,000 seats in his half-renovation of Memorial Stadium.

PortlandIllini wrote on September 03, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Mike Thomas got a contract extension for getting the Assembly Hall renamed The State Farm Center.  He should have been put on 'corrective action'  for cratering the Illinois Football program.