Football attendance at The Citadel: the annual review (for 2020, spring 2021…whatever, both)

Obviously, this is not going to be a “traditional” attendance post, given what last year (and earlier this year) was like. However, for the sake of completeness, we march on.

The updated spreadsheet:

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2020

One of the things that crossed my mind reviewing the attendance figures for F20/S21: was there a typo involved?

The listed attendance for the game versus ETSU was 2642, a little less than the other games. There was probably a reason for not having the maximum attendance allowed; at any rate, not a big deal. The other four games, though, had attendance as follows:

  • Eastern Kentucky: 3081
  • Chattanooga: 3108
  • Samford: 3081
  • Furman: 3081

One of those is not like the others…

The Citadel’s average attendance of 2,999 was “good” enough for a 23rd-place finish among all FCS programs that competed in F20/S21 (per the NCAA). Among SoCon schools, the Bulldogs were second overall.

1 – Mercer (3,234) – 5 home games
2 – The Citadel (2,999) – 5 home games
3 – East Tennessee State (2,240) – 3 home games
4 – Furman (2,066) – 3 home games
5 – Chattanooga (1,572) – 2 home games
6 – VMI (1,417) – 3 home games
7 – Samford (1,203) – 3 home games
8 – Western Carolina (1,128) – 2 home games
9 – Wofford (1,115) – 3 home games

One word of caution about those numbers: I know this will come as a shock, but the NCAA is not infallible.

For example, Charleston Southern is credited with an average home attendance of 750, based on one game (the Buccaneers actually played two home contests this spring, drawing an announced 750 fans for one of them and 1,000 for the other). The NCAA’s statistics site also lists Buccaneer Field as having a capacity of 500. Hmm.

The NCAA also catalogued Bryant as having an average attendance of 47, which was such a bizarre figure I went back and looked at Bryant’s boxscores. In fact, Rhode Island’s Bulldogs averaged 238 fans per home game (two contests). Admittedly, the March 28 home finale against Duquesne was played before only 75 hardy supporters, but that matchup occurred during a heavy rain — and the Dukes probably weren’t a big draw anyway.

Comparing the F20/S21 numbers to previous years is pointless, so I’ll just copy/paste the nine-year “first two games” section from prior seasons, to set up the next section:

  • 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)
  • 2017 [5-6 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 8,718; final two home games, average attendance of 9,496 (including Homecoming)
  • 2018 [5-6 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 9,559; final two home games, average attendance of 9,511 (including Homecoming and a rescheduled game)
  • 2019 [6-6 overall record]: First two home games, average attendance of 8,817; final two home games, average attendance of 9,141 (including Homecoming)

Based on recent history, and the general population gradually moving into the “new normal” of the post-pandemic era, what would we expect attendance to be like at Johnson Hagood Stadium this fall?

No home game times have been set as yet. There will be six contests at JHS:

  • September 11: Charleston Southern (Military Appreciation Day)
  • September 18: North Greenville
  • October 2: VMI (Parents’ Weekend)
  • October 23: Western Carolina
  • October 30: Mercer (Hall of Fame Weekend)
  • November 13: Wofford (Homecoming)

The original schedule had just five games, but The Citadel’s trip to Orangeburg to play South Carolina State was pushed back to a future year, as Buddy Pough’s Bulldogs got a “money game” at New Mexico State this fall that understandably took priority. That ultimately led to a sixth home game, with North Greenville as the new opponent for The Citadel.

While the home opener is listed as Military Appreciation Day, arguably a more important point in terms of potential attendance is that September 10-12 is the “replacement weekend” for the classes that were unable to hold their Homecoming reunions last year. A lot of people could be in town for that game.

I’m very curious to see what college football game attendance will be like throughout the country this season. I suspect that, at least initially, there will be big crowds at the P5 level (Clemson, South Carolina, etc.). Fans will be excited to go to sporting events for the first time in well over a year.

However, one other thing that happened during the pandemic: a lot of folks watched their teams play all their games on TV. I’m guessing many of them really enjoyed that experience. It could be that after the first game or two of this season, there will be people who decide staying at home is considerably more convenient, and that actually attending the games is not worth the expense (and the time commitment).

I don’t think that mindset will have a significant effect on schools like The Citadel. It is more likely to have an impact on programs trying to sell tickets to fans in the upper decks of large stadiums.

It is a potential trend worth watching, however.

I’m ready to return to Johnson Hagood Stadium. I’m sure many other fans are as well.

Getting closer…

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