2014 Report: Passion for College Football Remains Strong

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, June 27th, 2015

NFF

 

 

Robust ratings and attendance figures signal sport’s relevance across the country.

The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) highlighted today multiple impressive facts from the 2014 college football season that emphasize the strong popularity of college football among millions of fans across the country.
“The already intense interest in college football continues to grow,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “Embracing ever changing technology, the leaders of our sport have done a spectacular job in ensuring that the fan experience not only keeps pace but sets the standard in innovation. We are grateful to the conferences, bowl games and the media for their creativity and commitment in delivering a first-class product that allows fans to experience the game in every imaginable way.”
Playoff Championship Ohio St Oregon Football
The top highlights include

Inaugural CFP National Championship and Semifinals Break Cable Records:
The inaugural College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship between Ohio State and Oregon drew an average 33.4 million viewers and an 18.2 US household rating for ESPN, giving the game the largest audience and highest rating in cable history. The first-ever CFP semifinals on New Year’s Day delivered the second- and third-highest audiences in cable TV history. Ohio State’s upset over Alabama at the Allstate Sugar Bowl drew 28.27 million viewers, while Oregon’s win over Florida State in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual drew 28.16 million viewers. ESPN’s broadcasts of the CFP Semifinals and National Championship game combined to average 29.8 million viewers and a 16.0 US household rating.

Digital Expansion:
The 2014 college football season signaled more people than ever are now watching games through means other than just their televisions. The 517 FBS games on WatchESPN generated 1.2 billion live minutes viewed, an 80 percent increase over 2013. Overall, 2014 produced WatchESPN’s 10 largest average minute audiences for regular-season college football games ever. The simulcast of ESPN’s main telecast of the CFP National Championship on WatchESPN attracted 1.16 million unique viewers, 82 million minutes viewed and an average minute audience of 366,000. The usage represents increases of 110 percent, 144 percent and 128 percent, respectively, over the 2014 BCS National Championship.
Major Networks See Steady Growth in Viewership:
CBS averaged a 4.0 rating for SEC football this season, making it the highest rated regular-season college football package on any network for the sixth consecutive year. The weekly series Saturday Night Football on ABC averaged 5,106,000 viewers and a 3.2 rating, producing 7 percent increases over 2013 in each. In addition to the weekly ABC telecast, ESPN’s Saturday night games generated larger audiences than 2013, averaging 4,397,000 viewers for a 24 percent increase. ESPN averaged 11,680,000 million viewers on New Year’s Day, making it the most-viewed day ever in the network’s 35-year history. The ESPN outlets alone reached more than 185.7 million viewers during the telecasts of its regular season games.
Week Two of FOX College Football delivered FOX its highest-rated, most-watched regular-season broadcast ever with a 3.5/7 household rating/share and 6.0 million viewers who tuned in Sept. 6 to see Oregon defeat Michigan State. The 2014 season was the most watched college football season in the history of the Pac-12 Networks as viewership of live game coverage increased by 39 percent over 2013, and digital viewership for the network more than doubled over last year.

NCAA Programs Attract More than 49 Million and SEC Sets Attendance Record:
The SEC set an all-time record across all conferences of 7,769,362 fans in 2014, leading all FBS conferences in average attendance for the 17th consecutive year with 77,694 fans per game. The 655 NCAA football programs drew 49,072,591 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason games in 2014. The numbers symbolize a phenomenal increase of 156 percent from the 19,134,159 fans that the NCAA reported when they first started collecting attendance figures in 1948*. The 39 bowl games this season (including the CFP National Championship) attracted 1,730,254 spectators to the stands (44,365 per contest), slightly less than the record mark of 1,813,215, which was set after the 2010 regular season, and 13 bowl games had crowds in excess of 50,000.
The game has benefited enormously from the commitment of every major media sports outlet, including the American Sports Network, Big Ten Network, BYUtv, CBS, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN Classic, ESPN on ABC, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNews, ESPNU, FOX Sports, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, FOX College Sports, FOX Sports Net, the Longhorn Network, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Pac-12 Networks, Root Sports, SEC Network and multiple regional and local outlets.
Throughout the regular and bowl seasons these outlets continue to capitalize on college football’s ever-increasing popularity to produce an increasingly dynamic product that engages fans on new levels.
The growth trajectory for the sport appears likely to continue in the 2015 season. The FBS will feature 128 teams, with the addition of Charlotte to Conference USA. The number of bowl games will increase to a record 41 contests with the addition of the Arizona Bowl (Tucson, Ariz.) and AutoNation Cure Bowl (Orlando, Fla.).
And the College Football Playoff will look to expand upon its record-breaking success it experienced during its inaugural season.
KyleField
Regular Season Attendance Highlights
The 655 football programs across all NCAA divisions drew 49,072,591 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason games in 2014.
The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) drew 37,913,238 spectators or an average of 44,603 fans per game. The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) pulled in 5,764,490 fans, followed by Division II with 2,992,837 and Division III with 2,402,026.
The SEC led all FBS conferences in average attendance for the 17th consecutive year with an all-conference record 77,694 fans per game. The SEC also set an all-conference record with a total 2014 attendance of 7,769,362.
The top-five conferences for average attendance included the SEC (77,694), Big Ten (66,869), Big 12 (58,102), Pac-12 (52,702) and ACC (50,291). The Independent schools in the FBS (Army, BYU, Navy and Notre Dame) averaged 52,882 fans.
Others setting conference records in 2014 total attendance included the Mountain West in the FBS with a 1,868,773 fans and the Missouri Valley Conference in the FCS with 724,064.
Inaugural CFP National Champion Ohio State averaged 106,296 fans per home game, ending Michigan’s 16-year run atop the attendance charts. Five other programs also averaged more than 100,000: Texas A&M (105,123), Michigan (104,909), LSU (101,723) Penn State (101,623) and Alabama (101,534). Seven programs averaged more than 85,000 fans at each home game: Tennessee (99,754), Texas (94,103), Georgia (92,746), Nebraska (91,249), Auburn (87,451), Florida (85,834) and Oklahoma (85,162).
Ohio State led all teams with 1,304,138 fans attending 15 games in 2014. Ten other teams also eclipsed more than one million spectators during the season: Alabama (1,268,385), LSU (1,195,540), Texas A&M (1,118,202), Tennessee (1,117,276), Michigan (1,095,856), Penn State (1,058,388), Georgia (1,048,408), Auburn (1,028,828), Florida State (1,025,951) and Nebraska (1,006,253).
Four FBS teams enjoyed crowd increases of more than 10,000 fans per game in 2014: Texas A&M (17,998-person increase per game), UAB (11,293), Eastern Michigan (10,974) and LSU (10,305). (Stadium renovations at Texas A&M and LSU played a key role in their increases.)
Montana claimed the FCS attendance title with an average of 23,777 fans per home game, followed by James Madison (19,816), North Dakota State (18,571), Montana State (17,056) and Liberty (15,682).
Grand Valley State (Mich.) captured the Division II attendance title by averaging 11,699 fans per home game, followed by Tuskegee (Ala.) with 9,960, Pittsburg State (Kan.) with 9,813), North Alabama with 9,065 and Albany State (Ga.) with 7,752.
Saint John’s (Minn.) netted its 13th Division III attendance title in 14 years with an average of 7,752 fans per home game, followed by Hampden-Sydney (Va.) with 7,252, McDaniel (Md.) with 5,497, Wisconsin-Whitewater with 5,455 and Emory & Henry (Va.) with 5,341.
The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) earned its 36th FCS attendance title in 37 years, averaging 12,781 fans for a total of 728,523. The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) netted the Division II attendance title, averaging 6,271 fans per game. The Minnesota Intercollegiate Conference claimed its ninth attendance title in 10 years with 3,462 fans per game.
72 percent of the top 25 attendance leaders experienced increases or remained the same compared to last season.
16 FBS schools saw triple- or double-digit percent increases in their average home attendance, led by Eastern Michigan (271%), UAB (107%), Colorado St (43%), Georgia Southern (42%), Tulane (27%), Central Michigan (23%) and  A&M (2%).
The Big Ten Conference set a new single-season record for total attendance   during the 2014 football season with
6,359,218 fans attending home games. It was just the third time the conference surpassed the six-million mark.
The Oct. 11 game between A&M and Ole Miss at Kyle Field  drew 110,633 fans, an SEC single-game record and the most to ever attend a football game (pro or college) in the state of Texas.
For the 24th consecutive season, Penn State ranked among the top five in the nation in average home attendance.

Regular Season Ratings Highlights
The Oct. 18 game between Florida State and Notre Dame on ABC drew a 7.9 final rating, the highest of any regular season college football game in 2014. The SEC Championship game between Alabama and Missouri on CBS drew a 7.8 rating to finish second.
The Nov. 29 Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn on ESPN was the most watched regular season game of 2014, drawing 13.5 million viewers. The Oct. 18 game between Florida State and Notre Dame on ABC was the second most-watched, drawing 13.3 million viewers, while the SEC Championship game between Alabama and Missouri on CBS was third with 12.8 million viewers.
CBS averaged a 4.0 rating for SEC football this season, making it the highest rated regular-season college football package on any network for the sixth consecutive year. The “SEC on CBS” delivered five of the top 10 most-watched college football games of the 2014 season.
Overall, ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN3, ESPN Classic, SEC Network and Longhorn Network covered 453 exclusive regular-season Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) games involving teams from all 10 conferences, plus independents Notre Dame, BYU, Navy and Army. Combined with an extensive schedule of Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) contests, ESPN platforms carried 494 regular-season D I football games in 2014.
ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS combined to televise 272 FBS contests, reaching more than 185,687,000 viewers. The 272 telecasts averaged 1,767,000 viewers.
There were 221 teams from every FBS and FCS conference playing on an ESPN platform in 2014.
The weekly series Saturday Night Football on ABC was the most-viewed and highest-rated weekly college football night game on TV, with the 34 windows on ABC averaging 5,106,000 viewers and a 3.2 rating for 7 percent increases over 2013 in each (vs. 4,778,000 and vs. 3.0).
FOX’s 2014 College Football posted double digit increases this year for its primetime telecasts across key male demo, including Men 18-34 (up 11%), Men 18-49 (up 20%) and Men 25-54 (up 17%).
Week Two of FOX College Football delivered FOX its highest-rated, most-watched regular-season broadcast ever with a 3.5/7 household rating/share and 6.0 million viewers who tuned in Sept. 6 to see Oregon defeat Michigan State, 46-27, up 75% and 76% respectively compared to last year’s game between West Virginia and OU (2.0/4, 3.4 million viewers).
In addition to the weekly ABC telecast, ESPN’s Saturday night games generated larger audiences than 2013, averaging 4,397,000 viewers for a 24% increase.
ESPN’s Saturday prime time coverage of Alabama’s victory over Auburn on Nov. 29 delivered the season’s most-viewed game across all networks televising college football and generated TV and digital audience records for ESPN and WatchESPN.
The 2014 ACC Championship Game between Florida State and Georgia Tech was the highest rated and most-watched ACC title game ever, drawing a 6.2 final rating and 10.1 million viewers. The game was up 82% in ratings and 79% in viewership from the game between Duke and Florida State in 2013 (3.4, 5.7 million viewers), and up 417% and 416%, respectively, from the game between Florida State and Georgia Tech in 2012 (1.2, 2.0 million viewers).
The Conference USA Championship between Louisiana Tech and Marshall on ESPN2 earned a 0.5 final rating and 725,000 viewers, its highest rating and viewership since 2011.
The 2014 Pac-12 Championship between Arizona and Oregon drew a 3.7 final rating and 6.0 million viewers on FOX, up 311 percent in ratings and 314 percent in viewership from the game between Arizona State and Stanford on ESPN last year (0.9, 1.5 million viewers). The game was the highest rated and most-watched Pac-12 Championship Game and earned the season’s highest college football rating on FOX.
The 2014 Big Ten Championship between Ohio State and Wisconsin drew 6.1 million viewers, the college football season’s largest audience on FOX.
ABC’s three highest rated and most-viewed games involved Florida State, each part of the network’s Saturday Night Football franchise.
The 517 FBS games on WatchESPN generated 1.2 billion live minutes viewed, an 80 percent increase over 2013. Overall, 2014 produced WatchESPN’s 10 largest average minute audiences for regular-season college football games ever.
The Nov. 8 game between Baylor and OU attracted 2,048,000 viewers on FOX Sports 1, making it the channel’s most-watched college football game of the season, and third most-watched all-time.
For the 14th consecutive year, Birmingham was the highest-rated metered market for ESPN’s regular-season telecasts, averaging a 9.2 rating. It was followed by New Orleans (4.2), Greenville (4.1), Knoxville (4.1), Atlanta (3.8), Memphis (3.8), Jacksonville (3.5), Oklahoma City (3.4), Tulsa (3.1), Columbus (2.9) and Nashville (2.9).

Postseason Attendance Highlights
The 39 bowl games (including the CFP National Championship) this season attracted 1,730,254 spectators to the stands (44,365 per contest).
The CFP National Championship in Arlington between Ohio State and Oregon drew 85,689 fans and was the second-highest attended game during bowl season.
The Rose Bowl Game was the highest-attended bowl game, drawing 91,322 fans to Pasadena this year. The Allstate Sugar Bowl was the third-highest attended, packing 74,682 fans into the Superdome for the game’s best attendance since LSU-Notre Dame’s 77,781 fans in 2007.
The Texas Bowl between Arkansas and Texas drew a sellout crowd of 71,115 fans, an increase of 120 percent over the 2013 game. It was the largest crowd in the game’s 10-year history.
The Sugar Bowl’s attendance of 74,682 was a six percent increase over its 2014 contest. It marked the 64th time the game has welcomed more than 70,000 fans in its history and also pushed the Sugar Bowl’s all-time attendance mark past six million.
The sellout crowd of 49,012 at the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl between Penn State and Boston College was the highest in the bowl’s history, surpassing the 2013 edition between Notre Dame and Rutgers.
Thirteen bowl games had crowds in excess of 50,000: Rose Bowl Game  (91,322), National Championship (85,689), Sugar Bowl (74,682), Cotton Bowl Classic (71,464), Texas Bowl (71,115), Fiesta Bowl (66,896), Peach Bowl (65,706), Alamo Bowl (60, 517),Music City Bowl (60,149), Orange Bowl (58,211), TaxSlayer Bowl (56,310), Holiday Bowl (55,789) and the Liberty Bowl (51,282).
The FCS National Championship game attracted a sellout crowd for the third consecutive year with 20,918 fans packing the house at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, to watch North Dakota State claim a record fourth consecutive title.

Postseason Ratings Highlights
The inaugural CFP National Championship between Ohio State and Oregon drew an average 33.4 M viewers and an 18.2 US household rating for ESPN, giving the game the largest audience and highest rating in cable history. The championship topped the audience for three of the four NFL Wild Card games.
The title game drew a larger audience than every NBA game since Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals (35.9 million), every MLB game since Game 7 of the 2001 World Series (39.1 million) and every college basketball championship since Duke played Michigan in 1992 (34.3M). It also topped the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history – the 2014 World Cup Final (26.5 M) – by nearly eight million viewers.
The first-ever College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Day delivered the second- and third-highest audiences in cable TV history. Ohio State’s upset over Alabama at the Sugar Bowl drew 28.27M viewers, making it the second-most viewed telecast in cable TV history. Oregon’s win over Florida State in the Rose Bowl Game  drew 28.16M viewers.
ESPN averaged 11,680M viewers on New Year’s Day, making it the most-viewed day ever in the network’s 35-year history. The day started with SportsCenter and College GameDay, followed by the  Cotton Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.

The top five cable TV audiences of all time are all college football games.
ESPN’s New Year’s Eve tripleheader featuring the  Peach Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and  Orange Bowl averaged 7.1 million viewers on ESPN, +53% over New Year’s Eve ‘13.
The Orange Bowl between Georgia Tech and Miss State averaged 8.9 million viewers for a 5.0 rating, making it ESPN’s most-watched New Year’s Eve game ever.
The Cotton Bowl  averaged 9,085,909 viewers for a 5.2 rating, an increase of 39% and 35% over last season, respectively.
The 2014 Holiday Bowl between Nebraska and So Cal earned a 4.0 HH US TV rating for its ESPN telecast, the highest mark among bowl games outside the College Football Playoff’s six access bowls. The 4.0 rating is the highest since the 2005 game and is nearly double the rating from the 2013 game with Texas Tech and Arizona State.
The Texas Bowl between Arkansas and Texas recorded the largest viewership in the bowl’s history, pulling in 5.8 million viewers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football time slot. Viewership for the game was up 44% from last year’s Syracuse-Minnesota game (4.0 million).
The 29th edition of the Outback Bowl between Wisconsin and Auburn generated a network best 3.8 rating and an average of 6.4 million viewers, making it the most watched program on ESPN2 in the network’s 21-year history. The figures also represented a 19 percent increase in ratings and an 18 percent increase in viewers.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl (2.3M viewers), the Military Bowl (2.9 M viewers),the Birmingham Bowl (4.5M viewers). the St. Petersburg Bowl (3.3M viewers) were the most watched in their respective bowls’ history.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl saw the highest percentage increases during the bowl season for both viewers and ratings over last year. The game between Illinois and Louisiana Tech saw a 670% increase in ratings and a 605% increase in viewers.
The 2014 Independence Bowl between Miami and South Carolina, on ABC, garnered a 2.5 U.S. TV rating, the highest for the Independence Bowl since 2006.
The Liberty Bowl between Texas A&M and West Virginia drew 3.3 million viewers on ESPN, making it the most-watched Liberty Bowl in four seasons.
1/1 Cotton Bowl
Notable Bowl Facts and Milestones
There will be a record 41 bowls this upcoming season with the addition of the Arizona Bowl and AutoNation Cure Bowl
Ohio State’s win over Oregon in the National Championship makes it just the fifth school with at least six national titles, joining Alabama (10), Notre Dame (eight), Southern California (seven), OU (seven).
With Ohio State’s win in the CFP National Championship, Urban Meyer joins Nick Saban as the only coaches in the poll era to win a national championship at multiple schools.
The NFF announced the 2015 College Football Hall of Fame Class at the media hotel the Friday before the inaugural CFP National Championship. Members of the class, including Brian Bosworth (Oklahoma), Bob Breunig (Arizona State), Thom Gatewood (Notre Dame) and coaches Bill Snyder (Kansas State) and Jim Tressel (Youngstown State, Ohio State), took part in pregame festivities and the coin toss prior to the title game.
Ohio State became the first school in college football history to defeat the top 3 Heisman vote-getters in the same season.
Alabama made a record 15th appearance in the Sugar Bowl, giving the school a record 62 postseason appearances.
Ohio State’s victory  over Oregon pushed its season record to 14-1, making it just the fourth team in Big Ten history to win at least 13 games, joining Minnesota (13-0) in 1904, Ohio State (14-0) in 2002 and Mich. State (13-1) in 2013. The 14 wins by OSU ties a school and NCAA record for the most victories in a season.
The SEC sent an NCAA-record 12 teams to participate in postseason bowl games in 2014 and has sent no less than eight teams to bowls in each of the last nine seasons.
Thirteen teams posted at least 45 points in their respective bowl games: Toledo (63), Oregon (59), Memphis (55), Marshall (52), Georgia Tech (49), Western Kentucky (49), BYU (48), Central Michigan (48), Southern Cal (45), Stanford (45), Tennessee (45), A&M (45) and Utah (45).
Oregon became the first team to score 50 points in Rose Bowl history as it beat Florida State in the first CFP Semifinal.
College Football Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez, now the AD at Wisconsin, returned to the sidelines for the Badgers 34-31 win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl. Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon’s 251 rushing yards in the game broke both Wisconsin’s postseason record and the Outback Bowl record.
Baylor threw for 603 yards in its loss to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, an all-time record for passing yards in a bowl game and the first 600-yard passing game by a team ever in a bowl game. Bears QB Bryce Petty’s 550 passing yards set a Cotton Bowl record and are the fourth-most in FBS bowl history.
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott’s 453 passing yards against Georgia Tech are the most in Orange Bowl history.
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott’s 230 rushing yards against Alabama are the most in Sugar Bowl history. Elliott also set national championship records with 246 rushing yards and four rushing TD’s in the Buckeyes’ win over Oregon in the CFP National Championship.
Georgia running back Nick Chubb’s 266 rushing yards in the Belk Bowl are the most by a freshman and the seventh-most by any player in FBS bowl history.
Florida State played in a bowl game this year for the 33rd consecutive year, the longest current streak in the nation, which started with the 1982 season.

About the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame
      Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 120 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame, the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF High School Showcases, the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, the NFF Faculty Salutes presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Alumni Association, and scholarships of more than $1.3 million for college and high school scholar-athletes. The NFF also collaborates with the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) to release the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll; awards the William V. Campbell Trophy presented by Fidelity Investments and prominently showcased at its official home inside the New York Athletic Club; and bestows several other major awards at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner. NFF corporate partners include Fidelity Investments, Herff Jones, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, the Sports Business Journal and Under Armour. Learn more at www.footballfoundation.org.

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