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2001 Attendance Leaders

Publication Date: September 25, 2001


The NCAA released their annual report on baseball attendance recently, and I wanted to take this week's column to look at the results. I'm always conflicted when looking at these things. On the one hand, I've always preached that popularity is a dangerous goal for a sport, since things done in the name of popularity can damage the actual quality of the sport, so I don't want to give the impression that there's anything inherently praise-worthy about getting more people involved. On the other hand, when you're looking at something like actual attendance figures rather than something tenuous like TV ratings, it's a useful measure of reflected team success. It's also quite true that bigger crowds can make the ballpark experience more enjoyable, since there's an energy there that feeds on itself in wonderful ways sometimes.

Unfortunately, there's been a trend over the last few years that tends to undercut the value of attendance figures. Most of the larger schools, probably in a measure to make the numbers more reflective of their financial impact, but also because it's easier, have taken to reporting tickets sold, including season tickets, rather than actual bodies in attendance. This leads to silly results like LSU essentially averaging a complete sellout for all home games, when they had several midweek early-season games with fewer than 2000 folks actually there, or Alabama finishing second in the nation in attendance in an off-season with fairly sparse crowds most of the time. I haven't researched this in too much depth, although looking at attendance figures for mid-week games tells me that most of the big teams are doing this; the only large program I know of that still actually counts heads is Mississippi State, which makes their seventh-place finish in average attendance more impressive, since it includes a couple of under-1000 games.

None the less, the numbers are worth looking at, since they give a good feel for what's possible for a successful program in several areas of the country. So, here's the leader board; the full report is available on the NCAA Web site.

Total   Average
Rank Team Games Total Average   Rank Team Games Total Average
1 Louisiana State 37 276,622 7,476   1 Louisiana State 37 276,622 7,476
2 Alabama 32 180,310 5,635   2 Alabama 32 180,310 5,635
3 Texas 35 150,901 4,311   3 Texas A&M 33 147,400 4,467
4 Texas A&M 33 147,400 4,467   4 Texas 35 150,901 4,311
5 South Carolina 37 145,616 3,936   5 South Carolina 37 145,616 3,936
6 Tulane 48 127,670 2,660   6 Wichita State 27 96,158 3,561
7 Miami, Florida 46 123,680 2,689   7 Mississippi State 33 93,174 2,823
8 Fresno State 39 105,162 2,696   8 Auburn 30 84,568 2,819
9 Rice 38 99,574 2,620   9 Baylor 33 92,672 2,808
10 Wichita State 27 96,158 3,561   10 Arizona State 34 93,732 2,757

Mea Culpa

Now, for something completely different, an apology. One of the principles that I've always tried to hold to in doing this site is that there's enough secrecy and confusion already present in the statistical part of the game, and that anything I do would be open and accessible for review. When I'm writing about human issues, I'll respect a source's desire for privacy, but the original statistical work is as open as I can make it -- the ISR algorithm is described in the FAQ, I have a standing offer to give the source code for any of this stuff to anyone who wants it, and I've always discussed the limitations and increasing accuracy of the pseudo-RPI's openly.

All of this work, of course, has computer programs at its core; it's impossible to do the kind of computation I do weekly during the season by hand, nor would any sane person want to. I do the best I can with that, but it's a truism that every piece of software will eventually be found to have bugs, and I found mine last week. In reviewing the conference portion of the actual RPI's, I noticed that I had done something dumb in the program that averages team RPI's to produce the conference RPI's. Basically, teams that had left Division I were still being counted with an RPI of 0, so the results for the conferences they had been in were lower than they should have been.

The most glaring example of this came from Portland State having left the Pac 10, which made the Pac 10 come in much lower in the pseudo-RPI's than in the actuals.

I do apologize for this error. I'll correct it before next season, obviously, and I hope to put together a past conference ranking section, which will have been corrected. Thank you for your indulgence, and I'll work to be even more diligent in my results.

Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> 2001 Attendance Leaders About the author, Boyd Nation