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Passion for College Football Remains Robust

Impressive ratings and attendance figures signal the sport's relevance in every corner of the country.

 IRVING, Texas, March 19, 2013- The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) showcased today three impressive facts from the 2012 college football season that emphasize the strong interest in the sport by millions of fans across the country, including: 

Exceptional Attendance Figures: The sport produced the third highest attendance figure ever with 48.96 million fans attending a game, including 1.7 million spectators for the bowl games. 

Outstanding Television Viewership: More than 216 million viewers tuned in to watch the regular season with another 126 million watching the bowl games. 

Powerful Bowl Ratings: The Discover BCS National Championship Game on ESPN between Alabama and Notre Dame produced the second most-viewed program in cable television history with 26.4 million viewers, only behind the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. The five BCS bowl games averaged 15.1 million viewers up 7 percent from last year. 

"In every instance, whether it's the regular or the bowl season, the numbers for college football show strong interest," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. "College football fans have an unmatched passion for their sport, and the options for them to connect with their teams have never been greater. We are grateful to the conferences, bowl games and the media for their creativity and commitment in delivering a first-class product that allows fans to experience the game in every imaginable way."




College football attracted its third-highest attendance total ever with 48,958,547 fansturning out to watch a home, neutral-site or postseason game in 2012 at the 644 NCAA schools, according to the NCAA. The number represents a slight drop (1.49 percent) from the record set last year when 49,699,419 attended a game, and the numbers symbolize a phenomenal increase of 156 percent from the 19,134,159 fans that the NCAA reported when they first started collecting attendance figures in 1948*. During the past sixty years, total attendance has only dropped more than 2 percent on two occasions, including in 2004 when the NCAA capped 12-game seasons and in 1995 when a 2.25 percent decrease occurred. 

The 35 bowl games this season attracted 1,722,833 spectators to the stands (49,224 per contest), slightly less than the record mark of 1,813,215, which was set after the 2010 regular season, and a majority of the contests, 18, experienced increases in attendance from last year. 

College football bowl game viewership across all networks also remained extremely strong, attracting 126 million viewers to television screens to watch the 35 bowl games and complimenting the more than 216 million people who tuned into the regular season. The ESPN family of outlets alone reached more than 187 million viewers during the telecasts of its regular season games, and ESPN's presentation of the five BCS bowl games averaged 15,131,000 viewers, up 7 percent from last year

The game has benefited enormously from the commitment of every major media sports outlet, including the Big Ten Network, BYUtv, CBS, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN on ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN3D, Fox College Sports, Fox Sports, Fox Sports Net, FX, the Longhorn Network, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Pac-12 Network, and multiple regional and local outlets. Throughout the regular and bowl seasons these outlets continue to capitalize on college football's ever-increasing popularity to produce an increasingly dynamic product that engages fans on new levels. IMG reports that the entire industry has committed $25.5 billion in college rights fees over the next 15 years. 

Ranked among the top most popular sports in the United States along with the National Football League and Major League Baseball, NCAA Football counts 103 million adults as fans** or 44 percent of all U.S. adults. Among adult college football fans, 61 percent are male and 39 percent female. Twelve percent are between the ages 18-24, 18 percent are 25-34, 19 percent are 35-44, 20 percent are 45-54, 16 percent are 55-64 and 16 percent are age 65 or over. Sixty-one percent have an annual household income of $50,000 or more, with 42 percent at $75,000 or more, and 25 percent at $100,000 or more. Thirty-two percent are college graduates and 61 percent are married, according to Scarborough Sports Marketing.