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Pitt

4-1-Zoo: Pitt’s Attendance, Better Than You Think

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(File photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — After the Pitt-USF game, myself and many Pitt fans got into some heated and interesting discussion regarding Pitt’s attendance at Heinz Field.

I wrote this piece, stating that the reason for Pitt’s poor attendance figures are quite simple: Pitt has been a underachieving and frustrating football program for the better part of 30 years now. That, alone, is responsible.

The discussion went to Twitter after I wrote the piece (follow me here), and several people pointed out that playing in a major metropolitan area amongst professional sports teams plays a huge role in Pitt’s attendance. Many argued that Pitt isn’t alone, as many other schools in large cities suffer from poor attendance as well.

As discussion went on, it became somewhat clear that playing college football in or near a major city — regardless of an on-campus stadium — effects most programs. And to be honest, Pitt fairs pretty well when compared with schools in similar situations.

Ken Mittereder e-mailed me with a wealth of outstanding information Tuesday afternoon. He cross-referenced cities that have an NFL team and Division-I college football team within 60 miles of each other. When the research was finished, Pitt came in fifth out of 20 schools in attendance from last year’s averages…

Michigan — 111,825 avg. per game
Washington — 66,264 avg. per game
California — 57,873 avg. per game
Arizona — 55,408 avg. per game
Pitt — 52,165 avg. per game

Miami, Minnesota, Rutgers, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Indiana, South Florida, Stanford, Maryland, Boston College, Northwestern, Cincinnati and Vanderbilt fall in order behind that top five from 6-20.

Now, a lot of the discussion on Twitter also surrounded the idea of sellouts and how Pitt can only max out Heinz Field when West Virginia or Notre Dame come to town. That has proven mostly true over the years, but as I argued in my initial piece, Pitt did no better at Pitt Stadium.

By last year’s statistics, Pitt played to 80 percent capacity. Of schools with stadiums that hold 50,000 or more, Pitt ranks third in percent capacity.

Michigan — 102%
Washington — 91%
Pitt — 80%
California — 76%
Arizona — 76%
Miami — 69%

It’s a fact that schools like Penn State, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, etc. have a far greater reach in their fanbase. They represent a larger area and, thus, draw bigger crowds.

One more quick fact for you. Of these 20 schools, seven (Pitt, Miami, Minnesota, Georgia Tech, South Florida, Cincinnati and Vanderbilt) are directly in a city. Pitt leads all seven in average attendance.

By these numbers, it appears Pitt does pretty darn well in its situation.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Z0o
Twitter.com/Chris_Gates
Chris.Gates@cbsradio.com

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