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2013 Mountain West Football Attendance in question

Almost all NCAA FBS football conferences saw a drop in attendance last season and this year could offer more of the same in 2013.

While Mountain West Conference fans are in the midst of renewing or making decisions about season tickets, now might be a good time to consider what kind of attendance to expect this season based on past history. It's hard to be optimistic when the attendance records since BYU and Utah left the conference have shown a steady decline. That drop began in 2010 from an average of 34,464 fans per game down to 29,035 in 2011, a loss of 5,429 fans per game. That should come at no surprise with the loss of both Utah fan bases.

Some NCAA officials are quick to point out that overall football attendance in 2012 continued to set records for conferences and schools. But last year was a drop in attendance for the MWC. The saving grace in that is almost all the FBS college fan bases saw the same huge drops in attendance nationally. Here is how we compared in attendance to all NCAA DIVISION I FBS conferences in 2012 (and the change from the 2011 attendance records):

1. Southeastern, 75,538 (-294)

2. Big Ten, 70,040 (-1,398)

3. Big 12, 59,004 (-4,261)

4. Pac-12, 53,679 (1,430)

5. Atlantic Coast, 49,910 (-1,497)

6. Big East, 39,185 (-4,581)

7. Mountain West, 25,888 (-3,148) *

8. Conference USA 25,639 (-870)

9. Sun Belt, 19,766 (574)

10. Western Athletic, 16,844 (-3,562)

11. Mid-American, 15,526 (-1,507)

Independents, 51,624 (-3,510)

*figures are for the 10 teams in the 2012 conference

Mountain West Conference attendance records for 2012 indicate that 2013 averages could drop again this season for the third straight season. While a number of MW fan bases saw increased attendance at home games four schools were ranked in the top thirty in all FBS schools with the largest average attendance increases last year. Leading those increases were Nevada (#6 with 7,656), Utah State (#20 with 2,585), Fresno State (#27 with 1,676) and Boise State (#30 with 1,386).

Here are last season’s attendance averages for all 12 MWC teams in the 2013 conference:

Air Force, 32,015

Boise State, 35,404

Colorado State, 19,250

Fresno State, 30,915

Hawaii, 30,031

Nevada, 23,432

UNLV, 15,208

New Mexico, 22,307

San Diego State, 30,879

San Jose State, 10,789*

Utah State, 20,054*

Wyoming, 22,162

*Denotes new members with attendance based on Western Athletic Conference figures.

All 12 teams totaled 1,815,983 fans at 75 home games. If all 12 teams been MWC members this past season the conference attendance average would have been 24,213 instead of 25,888, a loss of an additional 1,675 fans. That would have dropped the total from -3,148 to -4,823.

So how do those figures relate to the 2013 season? You could expect another year of dropping attendance stats for the upcoming season. But on the positive side, it is hard to estimate the impact on attendance for the upcoming season based on a number of factors. One of those is a highly motivated 12-team conference split into 2 divisions with the return of San Diego State and Boise State to the fold. A second consideration is that many of the present MW teams are expecting an increase in their home game attendance again this season. The newly revitalized Fresno State and New Mexico teams are both cases in point. And third, there are the fan bases of new additions Utah State and San Jose State. Both saw a large bump up in ticket sales last season as members of the WAC, so you can expect that momentum to continue with their admittance into the much stronger Mountain West Conference.

The fallout from the losses of TCU, BYU and Utah peaked in 2012. Add into the equation that with an improving national economy there is optimism in the MW homelands that will in turn bring in a few more season ticket holders this season.

So when compared to the expected attendance drops to the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East), Conference USA, and the Sun Belt due to realignment, the Mountain West Conference could find the results of its 2013 attendance in a very good place.