Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2016: an annual review

Other links related to The Citadel’s upcoming gridiron campaign:

– A quick glance at the 2017 SoCon non-conference football slate

– Inside the Numbers: The Citadel’s run/pass tendencies, 4th-down decision-making, and various per-play statistics, along with the highly anticipated coin-toss data

– A look at “advanced statistics” from the Bulldogs’ 2016 league campaign

– Preseason rankings and ratings

Attendance is a popular topic of discussion among fans of The Citadel. In February I wrote about how well Bulldog supporters “travel”. This post will cover home attendance, a subject I’ve written about several times before.

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2016

The above link is to a spreadsheet that tracks attendance for The Citadel’s home football games, and which has now been updated to include the 2016 season.

For anyone curious about why the time period in question begins in 1964, that year marks the earliest season in which reliable attendance figures for all home games can be reasonably determined. Individual game totals prior to 1964 are sometimes available, but not for a complete season.

I’ve mentioned this before, but attendance numbers prior to the mid-1960s tended to be released as “round” numbers, and that’s when there was an official attendance announcement at all. The News and Courier‘s game reports back in the day routinely questioned the accuracy of the official totals provided by the school. That led to newspaper estimates like these for the 1962 home schedule:

  • Davidson: 10,200
  • Presbyterian: 10,500
  • William and Mary: 10,300
  • VMI: 10,100
  • Memphis State: 10,600

Sure…

Thus, years like 1959 (eight wins), 1960 (bowl victory), and 1961 (SoCon championship) cannot be included in this review, or any of the other years from 1948 (when the “modern” Johnson Hagood Stadium opened) through the 1963 season. For that matter, attendance figures prior to 1948 are just as sketchy.

The spreadsheet lists year-by-year total and average game attendance, and the win/loss record for the team in each season. There is also a category ranking the years by average attendance.

Other columns refer to the program’s winning percentage over a two-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year period, with the “current” season being the final year in each category. For example, the three-year winning percentage for 1992 (69.44%, the highest percentage for that category since 1964) is made up of the 1990, 1991, and 1992 seasons.

I include those categories primarily to see what impact constant winning (or losing) has on long-term attendance trends.

In previous years, I’ve noted that walk-up sales appear to have had an impact on yearly totals; in other words, if the team is good, it is reflected in that season’s attendance. This is not exactly surprising, but the numbers for The Citadel seem to be higher than expected when compared to attendance for the following season (when you might naturally expect a “bump” in attendance as a result of the previous year’s successful campaign).

Last year, I began comparing averaging attendance for the first two games of a season to the last two contests of the same campaign. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for discrepancies when making such a comparison (weather, opponent fan base, etc.), but I thought it was interesting. This time, I’ve added the 2016 numbers, so now there is a six-year period to check:

  • 2011 [4-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 12,756; final two home games, average attendance of 12,387 (including Homecoming)
  • 2012 [7-4 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,281; final two home games, average attendance of 13,715 (including Homecoming)
  • 2013 [5-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,370; final two home games, average attendance of 12,948 (including Homecoming)
  • 2014 [5-7 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 9,700; final two home games, average attendance of 9,563 (including Homecoming)
  • 2015 [9-4 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 8,356; final two home games, average attendance of 12,465 (including Homecoming)
  • 2016 [10-2 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 13,299; final two home games, average attendance of 13,996 (including Homecoming)

Of course, The Citadel only played four regular-season home games in 2016 (I’m not counting the playoff contest as the final home game, because postseason attendance numbers skew everything). You also had a game moved for weather reasons (North Greenville); that game was originally scheduled to be the second home contest of the 2016 campaign.

Incidentally, the official home attendance average for 2016 was 11,727. That includes the contest played at North Greenville, which was technically a home game for The Citadel.

Personally, I don’t count that as a home game; after all, it wasn’t played at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The two games played at Williams-Brice Stadium in 1989 are not considered home games (nor should they be). Therefore, I think it is much more consistent not to include the matchup with NGU as a home game.

The average attendance for the five home contests played at JHS last season (including the playoff game) was 12,986.

Since 1964, the Bulldogs’ record at Johnson Hagood Stadium is 185-111 (62.5%). The average home attendance over that time period is 14,140. However, there has not been a season in which home attendance averaged more than 14,140 since 2006.

That streak will almost certainly continue this season, given that the stadium capacity for 2017 is currently around 11,700 after the demolition of the East stands.

Now let’s look at FCS attendance as a whole.

2016 NCAA football attendance (all divisions)

Montana easily led the division in average home attendance again, with 25,377 (six games). That was higher than 45 FBS programs, and higher than the average home attendance for four FBS conferences (Sun Belt, MAC, C-USA, Mountain West).

James Madison was second overall, averaging 19,844. That included eight games, two of which were playoff contests (all of these numbers include playoff games).

Without the attendance-sapping postseason matchups, JMU would have averaged 21,646 fans per home game.

Five FCS schools averaged more than 18,000 fans per game. Last season, eight FCS schools hit that mark.

The Citadel ranked 20th overall, and that is counting the North Greenville game. Not including the NGU contest would move the military college up to 17th.

Even with the North Greenville game mixed in as part of the average, The Citadel had the highest attendance in the SoCon, just ahead of Mercer (11,237, which was 21st overall). Last season, it was Mercer that was slightly ahead of The Citadel in home attendance.

Western Carolina finished 23rd overall (10,465) despite a 2-9 record, which may be a tribute to the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band.

Others of varying interest among the 124 FCS squads (counting Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word, which are transitioning to the division, but not Coastal Carolina, which is moving to FBS):

  • North Dakota State: 5th (18,556 per game)
  • Jacksonville State: 7th (17,576)
  • Liberty: 9th (16,478)
  • Harvard: 11th (14,742)
  • North Carolina A&T: 12th (14,472)
  • William and Mary: 24th (10,168)
  • South Carolina State: 26th (10,148)
  • Princeton: 32nd (8,990)
  • Chattanooga: 33rd (8,886)
  • Yale: 35th (8,795)
  • North Carolina Central: 39th (8,242)
  • Sam Houston State: 42nd (7,940)
  • Richmond: 44th (7,926)
  • Kennesaw State: 48th (7,768)
  • East Tennessee State: 50th (7,668)
  • Elon: 58th (7,146)
  • Wofford: 61st (6,789)
  • Lehigh: 64th (6,527)
  • VMI: 68th (6,191)
  • Samford: 73rd (5,897)
  • Furman: 76th (5,771)
  • Towson: 78th (5,703)
  • Campbell: 82nd (5,523)
  • Gardner-Webb: 97th (4,295)
  • Davidson: 102nd (3,529)
  • Presbyterian: 105th (3,299)
  • Monmouth: 107th (3,172)
  • Charleston Southern: 112th (2,712)
  • Georgetown: 120th (2,005)
  • Delaware State: 121st (1,975)
  • Jacksonville: 122nd (1,849)
  • St. Francis (PA): 123rd (1,617)
  • Duquesne: 124th (1,554)

Odds and ends:

– Yale dropped from 3rd overall in attendance in 2015 (20,547) to 35th last season (8,795). Most of that differential can be attributed to the location of the Harvard-Yale game.

The Elis hosted the game in 2015, and drew 52,126 fans to the Yale Bowl. The average home attendance for Yale in its other three home games that year: 10,021.

– Duquesne ranked last in the division in home attendance, as it did in 2015 when it made the FCS playoffs.

– St. Francis (PA), a playoff team last year, ranked next-to-last in the division in home attendance.

– Over the past four seasons, Montana has averaged 24,418 fans per home contest, while fellow Treasure State school Montana State has averaged 18,460. No other Big Sky team has averaged as much as 10,000 per home game for any of those four years.

– Furman finished last in average home attendance among SoCon schools, which meant that for a third consecutive season, FU finished behind Wofford in home attendance. I think it is safe to say that part of new Paladins head coach Clay Hendrix’s mission is to change that trend.

– Coastal Carolina averaged 8,392 fans per home contest last season. The Chanticleers played eight games at Brooks Stadium in 2016; they will play six games there this season, the second of two FBS transition years.

– A few “FYI” numbers from Division II: Benedict was 16th overall in D-2 home attendance (6,490 fans per home game); Newberry was 57th (3,502); and North Greenville was 76th (3,051).

NGU’s home attendance does not include its game versus The Citadel, despite the fact the game was played in Tigerville. That contest drew a record 5,435 fans to Younts Stadium.

– The Citadel had a higher home attendance average than six FBS schools — Akron, Ball State, Florida Atlantic, Kent State, Northern Illinois, and New Mexico State. I have to point out that Northern Illinois played in the Orange Bowl just five years ago.

Undergraduate enrollment for those six institutions:

  • Akron: 22,619
  • Ball State: 17,011
  • Florida Atlantic: 24,687
  • Kent State: 23,684
  • Northern Illinois: 15,079
  • New Mexico State: 14,698

The Citadel has finished in the Top 30 of FCS attendance in each of the last eleven seasons. All in all, that’s quite good for a small military college.

As I’ve said before (and will undoubtedly say again), no matter what you think of the attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium in recent years, The Citadel still enjoys a significantly greater level of support than would normally be expected for a school of its size — both in terms of undergraduate enrollment and alumni base.

Sometimes, people forget that.

One Response

  1. Spike, I enjoy your reports and all the work you do in analysis of stats, etc. On your last report the one thing that is hard to take into effect is that I would guess over 95% if not higher percentage of Citadel graduates are male. I am sure male college graduates are much more interested in college football than female. I know there are big female college fans but percentage would be much lower. I think this is a built in advantage so we do better for schools of our size. I think it is something very hard to quantify. All my best, Chris Hoffman 68′ >

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