As part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, Noah Johnson asked The Daily Nebraskan, “FBS attendance for college football games has dropped significantly over the last five years, so how does Nebraska compare?”
Across the country, high-level colleges are struggling to fill their football stadiums on game days, and administrators are becoming increasingly concerned.
The 2018 season saw the lowest attendance totals in 22 years, per an official report from the NCAA. The culprits range from schools with little football tradition such as Utah State and Vanderbilt all the way to some of the greatest programs in the sport, like Alabama.
Plenty of theories have been proposed as to why attendance is declining. Fans can watch more games at home instead of spending most of the day at one game. Ticket prices are too high. Students aren’t as interested as they used to be. Sports Illustrated’s Charlotte Wilder took an in-depth look at the problem in a January feature.
As this issue continues to become as serious as it is perplexing, it’s one that Nebraska Athletics and the Nebraska football program does not have to deal with.
At the annual Big Ten Football Media Days event in Chicago back in July 2019, a national reporter was asking every coach about the attendance crisis taking over college football. As she was asking about it to Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, he began to smirk.
“Well, if there’s a decline in attendance at college football, we don’t have that problem at Nebraska,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
As the Nebraska football program has gone through its fair share of highs and lows, attendance has never been an issue. Above the lower level of seats in the east end of Memorial Stadium, a ticker reads that the Huskers have sold out 375 consecutive games, an NCAA record. The next closest program was Notre Dame at 273 consecutive games, but that streak ended with a November 2019 home game against Navy.
Per the NCAA’s last football attendance report following the 2018 season, Nebraska finished 10th in the FBS for total home attendance with an average of 89,034 people per game. Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Texas, Tennessee and Georgia finished ahead of them.
While Nebraska technically has recorded 375 consecutive sellouts, Memorial Stadium has not been entirely full for every game. A study by 10/11 NOW found that the total number of scanned tickets at Nebraska home games from 2016-19 showed that actual attendance was 80% of what was reported by Nebraska Athletics.
Despite initially declining to say more about Nebraska’s attendance record, Frost did indulge a follow-up question on the matter as to what the program is doing right.
“What do I think Nebraska’s doing right? We’re raising our kids the right way, having morals and characteristics that I admire personally,” he said. “Having genuine, real, tough and loyal people that are going to show up through thick and thin and will stay through four quarters.”