College football realignment strikes again.
When I first started putting together this article, the lead-in was completely different, more focused on a connection with Billy’s series on remodeling Notre Dame Stadium. But then the Big 12 and Big Ten expansions, a.k.a. Great Pillaging of the Pac-12, news broke and I couldn’t help but frame this analysis in terms of realignment. I can’t wait until the regular season starts so we can start writing about football again and not just the Succession spinoffs that every college football offseason seems to have turned into.
Once again, everyone wants to know when Notre Dame will bend the knee or instantly wither off into complete obscurity Given that, it’s hard to present this analysis and its outcomes in a way that ignores 1) why Notre Dame has considerably more leverage than a lot of folks give them credit for and 2) it must suck to be the Florida State AD trying to make it through a very narrow but possible path to success.
Breaking down the single-game attendance records for 58 current Power 5 schools reveals Notre Dame as the king of putting butts in opponent’s seats.
The Irish hold the single-game attendance records for six of the analyzed schools and Florida State comes in at second with five records held. Both ND and Florida State collectively hold the single-game attendance records for 19% of the analyzed schools. If you just look at the current metrics of relevance or recent National Championships it’s easy to see why both programs seem to be in the hot seat. But if you think in terms of the still important factors of actual ticket sales, home game economic stimulus, and legacy fanbases it’s not as dark of a situation. Florida State undoubtedly has a tighter rope to walk but now that we see that money will reign supreme in the next iteration of college football everything may not be doom and gloom in Tallahassee. It’ll be interesting how other schools in similar situations will emerge as everything unfolds.
Notre Dame claims attendance records primarily against Big Ten schools (as of August 5, 2023) Michigan, Michigan State, and Northwestern. The Irish have also topped out crowds at BYU (Big 12), USC (Pac-12), and Georgia (SEC). Four of Florida State’s five records came against fellow ACC schools (Louisville, Clemson, Miami, and North Carolina).
Notre Dame has demonstrated the ability over a long stretch of time to pack out opposing stadiums. The first record dates back to 1947 against USC and the most recent came in 2019 against Georgia. Florida State’s first record dates back to 1997 against North Carolina and its most recent came in 2016 against Louisville.
There are a lot of weird factors that play into attendance records, with regional and conference rivalries being the strongest two. This makes the Notre Dame stats even more interesting (as well as chaotic on the Florida State/ACC side). The alarms about the Notre Dame football program model’s impending doom continue to ring like clockwork but it still seems like a lot is just based on gut and not fact.
Sure, stringing together a schedule will probably get a bit more difficult in the near future. But with a track record of drawing crowds into opponents’ stadiums over a span of decades and geographies, I doubt that any serious Athletics Director will be energetically turning down future Irish games anytime soon. And this metric doesn’t take into consideration more general attendance trends that fall below record status or how home games in South Bend can oftentimes be a boost for opponents.
What’ve some of your experiences at away games been like? How much do you think this factor weighs into how Notre Dame is able to navigate this storm?