Nittany Lion Fans Keep Beaver Stadium Among Nation's Top Drawing Venues
Feb. 17, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., - Penn State fans continue to prove why they are regarded as the best in the nation as they flocked to Happy Valley in near-record numbers last year.
Sports Illustrated calls Beaver Stadium on football Saturdays "The Greatest Show in College Football" and 757,775 fans played an active part during 2008 season. Among the most vociferous and passionate fans are more than 21,000 students who were rated No. 1 in the nation by ESPN the Magazine in 2008.
Nittany Lion football fans ranked second in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) football attendance during the 2008 season, for the sixth time this decade. Penn State has finished among the top four in I-A attendance for 18 consecutive years.
Penn State's loyal and enthusiastic fans delivered an average of 108,254 for seven home games in 2008, second-highest in Penn State history, according to figures recently released by the NCAA. The school record average of 108,917 was set in 2007.
Nittany Nation delivered Penn State's third-highest overall home total attendance last season, surpassed only by the 857,911 fans that came for the eight-game home schedule in 2002 and 762,419 for seven games in 2007.
Penn State fans have played an integral role in helping the Nittany Lions win 27 of their last 29 home games dating to the Senior Day win over Michigan State in 2004. Penn State was 7-0 in Beaver Stadium in 2005 and 2008 and 6-1 in 2006 and '07.
An energetic throng of 110,017 for the 46-17 Homecoming win over Michigan was the fourth-largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history. The raucous audience of 109,845 that braved cold and windy conditions for the Big Ten title-clinching win over Michigan State on Nov. 22 ranks No. 7 among the facility's largest crowds.
Penn State has drawn nine of its top 10 all-time home crowds during the past four seasons. Beaver Stadium is the nation's largest facility with a capacity of 107,282 and was expanded for the seventh time under Coach Joe Paterno prior to the 2001 season.
Penn State's 108,254 average placed second among the 628 NCAA members surveyed, including 119 in the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A). Michigan (108,571 avg.) led, followed by Penn State, Ohio State (104,976), Tennessee (101,448) and Texas (98,046). Georgia (92,746) was sixth, followed by LSU (92,383), Alabama (92,138), Florida (90,544), and Auburn (86,915).
More than 1.2 million fans watched the Nittany Lions play in 2008. Penn State's total attendance of 1,211,898 was the second-highest in program history, surpassed only by the then-NCAA record 1,247,707 in 2002. Penn State's 857,911 fans at home in 2002 were an NCAA record until the 2007 season.
The Nittany Lions have played in front of more than one million spectators in nine of the past 11 seasons.
Penn State's five away games drew 360,830 and the crowd of 93,293 for the 2009 Rose Bowl gave the Nittany Lions a school record 454,123 spectators away from Happy Valley.
Since the 1991 season, the Nittany Lions have finished second in NCAA attendance in 1994, 2001, '02, '03 , '06, '07 and `08, third in 1991, '92, '93, '95, `96, `97, `98 and '99 and fourth in 2000, '04 and `05.
For the third consecutive year, the Big Ten claimed the top three spots in the survey and was second among all conferences with 5,399,659 fans, posting an average of 70,125 for 77 home dates. Big Ten members Wisconsin (15th, 81,747 avg.), Michigan State (20th, 74,858) and Iowa (22nd, 70,169) also made the top 25.
The NCAA's 628 programs drew 48,839,003 fans for the four divisions. The nation's 119 FBS schools led the way, drawing a record 37,483,158 patrons for a record average of 46,971.
The unparalleled interest in Penn State football has triggered seven expansions and renovations of Beaver Stadium since Joe Paterno became head coach in 1966. The most recent expansion added a deck and 4,000 club seats in the South end zone as well as an East side pavilion with 60 enclosed skyboxes, all of which have been leased. All the suites and club seats were leased on a seasonal basis for the 2008 season, providing the amenities of the Mount Nittany Lounge throughout gameday.
Season tickets are available for the 2009 home schedule, which will feature contests with three Big Ten teams that played in bowl games last season: Iowa (Sept. 26-All University/Varsity "S" Day), Minnesota (Oct. 17-Homecoming) and Ohio State (Nov. 7), as well as the first visit by old rival Syracuse (Sept. 12) since the 1990 season. The clash with the Buckeyes will be the 300th game in Beaver Stadium history.
For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club and purchasing season tickets, fans can call 1-800-648-8269 (1-800-NITTANY).
Beginning his 44th season as head coach, Paterno's squad returns 38 letterwinners from last year's squad, which won Penn State's second Big Ten title in the past four years. The Nittany Lions have a 40-11 record over the past four seasons, good for No. 8 in the nation. Penn State was No. 8 in the final 2008 Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls, earning its 22nd Top 10 ranking under the Hall of Fame coach.