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Another Banner Year for College Football

Monday, March 1, 2010


The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) showcased today several impressive facts from the 2009 college football season, including top-notch television ratings and stellar bowl attendance figures, that emphasize a continuing trend of increased interest in the sport by millions of fans across the country.

Highlights include ESPN notching its most-viewed regular season since 1994 and its most viewed bowl season ever while CBS Sports averaged its highest ratings since the sport returned to the network in 1996. VERSUS, concluding its fourth year of college football coverage, produced its highest-rated and most-watched season with a slate of 24 games. Despite a difficult economy, a near-record of 48.3 million fans, down just 1 percent from 2008, attended games at the 630 NCAA schools during the 2009 season, including the postseason.

"College football fans love their sport with an unmatched passion, and it's exciting to watch the numbers roll in each year, proving the strength of college football," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. "We are grateful to the bowl games and the broadcast industry for their creativity and commitment in delivering a first- class product that allow fans to experience the game with unequaled quality."

The game has benefited enormously from the commitment of every major media sports outlet, including ESPN on ABC, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic,, the Big Ten Network, CBS College Sports Network, Versus, Fox Sports Net, the Mtn.- Mountain West Sports Network, and NFL Network. Throughout the regular and bowl seasons these outlets continue to capitalize on college football's ever increasing popularity to produce an increasing dynamic product that engages fans on new levels.

"We continue to experience tremendous fan interest in our studio and game coverage," said Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president for college sports programming. "Nearly 200 million people tuned in to regular-season games across our platforms and more than 30 million viewers watched our first BCS Championship game in four years. We are excited about the future growth opportunities for the sport and look forward to televising an extensive schedule next year, concluding with the entire BCS."

The 2009-10 bowl viewership and attendance remained robust, attracting 1,769,886 fans to 34 bowl games and filling stadiums to 85 percent of their capacity at an average of 52,055 individuals per game. Combined viewership for all bowl games also increased from 203,629,913 viewers (143,538,047 households) last season to 225,399,846 (155,331,079 households) in 2009-10, or about an 11 percent jump.

"The bowl system and the college football regular season have combined to create a dynamic setting that continues to engage more and more fans while ensuring that every game counts," said Allstate Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan, who also heads the Football Bowl Association. "For the better part of a century, the bowl games have brought a measure of importance to the regular season not seen in any other sport while ensuring memories for teammates that last a lifetime."

With the 1.77 million in attendance at bowl games and more than 225 million viewers tuning in to watch the games on television, bowl payouts ran an estimated $240 million in 2009-10 and have totaled $2.08 billion over the last 11 seasons. Over the next 10 years, bowls are projected to pay $2.5 billion to the teams and conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision who participate.

An estimated $1.5 billion was netted from travel and tourism during the 34 clashes. Coaches and student- athletes took time out from their practice schedules to participate in a many community service such as children and veteran hospital visits, youth football clinics, Boys & Girls Clubs activities, Make-A-Wish events, Wish- Upon-A-Star Foundation, food distribution center visits, clothing drives, food drives, parades, and pep rallies.


Regular Season Ratings and Attendance Highlights

  • CBS Sports averaged its highest ratings since the sport returned to the network in 1996 with the SEC on CBS. The 4.4 rating represented a 29 percent increase over last year, and the network also landed the highest rated SEC Championship ever with the battle between No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama earning an 11.1 rating or an 18 percent increase above the previous year's game between the same two teams.
  • ESPN averaged 2.1 million households, 2.87 million viewers and a 2.2 rating per game this season, making it the most-viewed season for the outlet since 1994 and the highest-rated since 1999. The numbers represented increases of 11%, 12% and 10%, respectively, over last year. The USC at Ohio State game became the outlet's most-viewed game ever, including both bowl and regular season games, attracting 10.6 million viewers and a 7.3 rating while the Oregon State at Oregon game became the most-viewed Thursday night game ever for the outlet with 6.7 million viewers and a 4.3 rating.
  • ESPN2 experienced its most-viewed season ever, averaging 1.1 million households and 1.5 million viewers, representing increases of 8% and 11% respectively. The average ESPN2 rating remained at 1.1 for both seasons. The Pittsburgh at West Virginia game became the outlet's most-viewed game ever with 4.1 million viewers and a 2.9 rating.
  • ESPN's College GameDay Built by the Home Depot, the 2006 winner of the NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award, continued its meteoric rise in popularity with its most-viewed season ever, averaging 1.7 million households and 2 million viewers with a 1.7 rating for increases of 14 percent, 12 percent, and 13 percent, respectively, over last year.
  • ESPN's Heisman Trophy presentation marked its highest-rated and most-viewed show ever, posting a 4.1 rating, 4,045,000 households and 5,990,000 viewers, for 32% increases over last year while The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards show averaged a 1.2 rating, 1,166,000 households and 1,593,000 viewers for a 33 percent ratings increase and a 48 percent increase in viewers, which made it the network's most-viewed college football awards show since 1996.
  • Both ESPN's College Football Final and College Football Live studio programs experienced viewership growth between 12-17 percent, attracting an average of 1.5 million and 478,000 viewers respectively.
  • NBC garnered a 16 percent increase in its average viewership for its Notre Dame coverage, pulling in 3.7 million viewers up from 3.2 million per game in 2008.
  • The Big Ten Network's ratings increased across the board in 2009, with its average afternoon telecasts improving by 28 percent over 2008 and its eight primetime games exploding by a staggering 183 percent. The channel's telecasts of afternoon games averaged a 2.3 household rating with the primetime games pulling a 1.7 rating.
  • The Mtn. (Mountain West Sports Network) saw an 18 percent increase in its average household viewership from 2008 for the slate of 30 games that it carried in 2009 and 2008.
  • Almost 48.3 million fans attended games at the 630 NCAA schools during the 2009 season, including postseason games.
  • Average attendance at Football Bowl Subdivision games was 46,281.
  • Michigan led the nation with an average crowd of 108,933.
  • Penn State, Ohio State and Texas all averaged better than 100,000 a game.
  • The Southeastern Conference led all leagues in attendance, at 76,288 a game.


Bowl Ratings and Attendance Highlights

  • The combined five BCS games increased their viewership from 87,126,256 (58,559,478 households) to 95,031,974 (61,909,441 households) or about a 9 percent jump, and the attendance record of 94,906 at the BCS Championship between Alabama and Texas broke the all-time BCS record, previously set at 94,392 during the 2001 Rose Bowl when Washington defeated, 34-24, Purdue.
  • ESPN averaged 3,110,000 households; 4,311,000 viewers; and a 3.1 rating for its 22 bowl games, making it the most-viewed season on the network for bowl coverage ever. The coverage included two of the network's three largest bowl game audiences ever (Valero Alamo Bowl and the Emerald Bowl) and seven of the network's top 25 of all time. * ESPN2 averaged 1,832,000 households; 2,504,000 viewers; and a 1.9 rating, making it the network's most- viewed and highest-rated bowl season.
  • The Citi BCS National Championship gave ABC its biggest Thursday night audience since October 26, 1995 and the biggest audience for any television network between the event and the Academy Awards on February 22, 2009. Attracting 19.7 million households and 30.8 million viewers with a 17.2 rating, the game ranks second among most-viewed BCS games ever behind the ESPN on ABC telecast of the 2006 USC-Texas championship game in the Rose Bowl.
  • The Citi BCS National Championship also produced the highest rated bowl game in recent years for several DMA markets, including Birmingham (67.4 rating), Austin (47.8 rating), San Antonio (37.2 rating), Nashville (33.4 rating), Knoxville (31.7 rating), Atlanta (29.9 rating), Memphis (25.1 rating), Dallas (31.3 rating), and Houston (29.7 rating).
  • The Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi garnered the second largest bowl audience this season for ESPN on ABC, behind only the BCS National Championship, with 15,143,000 households; 24,025,000 viewers; and a 13.2 rating.
  • Both of ABC's New Year's Day college football bowl games scored increased ratings over last season. The Capital One Bowl (Penn State 19, LSU 17) produced an 8 percent pop from last year with a 6.9 rating while the Rose Bowl presented by Citi (Ohio State 26, Oregon 17) tallied a 12 percent increase with a 13.2 rating. All totaled ESPN on ABC posted a 36 percent increase for its bowl coverage over last year.
  • FOX's coverage of the Cotton, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange games averaged an estimated 11.9 million viewers each or about a 3 percent increase in viewership for the same four games from last year.
  • The 2009 AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (Georgia 44, Texas A&M 20) gave ESPN2 its highest- rated and most-viewed bowl game ever, averaging 2,334,000 households; 3,276,000 viewers; and a 2.4 rating.
  • ESPN's telecast of the Valero Alamo Bowl was the outlet's most-viewed bowl game and fifth-highest-rated ever, with 5,554,000 households; 7,829,000 viewers; and a 5.6 rating.
  • The Emerald Bowl delivered ESPN's third-most-viewed bowl game and 10th-highest-rated ever, averaging 5,289,000 households; 7,563,000 viewers; and a 5.3 rating.
  • The New Year's Eve telecast of the Chick-fil-A Bowl was ESPN's seventh-most-viewed bowl game ever, with 4,852,000 households and 7,513,000 viewers, based on a 4.9 rating.
  • ESPN's telecasts of the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, AutoZone Liberty Bowl and Pacific Life Holiday Bowl were the network's 13th-, 15th-, 21st-, and 23rd-most-viewed bowl games, respectively.
  • A thrilling-overtime Outback Bowl produced the highest rated bowl ever on ESPN/ESPN2 for a game in the Chicago market (DMA), producing a 7.1 rating as Auburn beat Northwestern, 38-35. The previous Chicago market record was the 2000 Alamo Bowl between Nebraska and Northwestern with a 5.2 rating. The 4.06 national rating was a 32% increase over the 2009 Outback Bowl.
  • The Valero Alamo Bowl with Texas Tech winning 41-31 against Michigan State, claimed the highest rated bowl game ever on ESPN/ESPN2 in both the San Antonio and Dallas markets with 12.5 and 9.3 ratings, respectively.
  • Bowl's boasting double digit growth in viewership included: the St. Petersburg Bowl Presented by Beef 'O' Brady's (49%), Little Caesars Bowl (11%), Emerald Bowl (16%), AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (171%), Brut Sun Bowl (44%), Texas Bowl (1769%), Chick fil-A Bowl (33%), Outback Bowl (39%), Rose Bowl presented by Citi (17%), Allstate Sugar Bowl (16%), AT&T Cotton Bowl (13%), AutoZone Liberty Bowl (79%), Valero Alamo Bowl (29%), FedEx Orange Bowl (17%), GMAC Bowl (24%), and the Citi BCS National Championship Game (15%).


2009-10 Notable Bowl Facts and Milestones

  • Joe Paterno of Penn State remained No. 1 in all-time NCAA bowl wins with 24.
  • Utah won its ninth consecutive bowl game, extending the longest active streak in the nation and tying USC from 1923-1945 for the second-longest such streak in FBS history.
  • The Mountain West Conference posted the best bowl record (4-1, .800) for conferences playing in more than two games.
  • The SEC claimed a record fourth-straight BCS title.
  • The Brut Sun Bowl produced a record crowd with 53,713 for the 76th edition of the game, which saw Oklahoma defeat, 31-27, Stanford.
  • The Cotton Bowl drew its second largest crowd in the 74 history of the game with 77,928 spectators as Ole Miss won, 21-7, against Oklahoma State in the classic's new home at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Cotton Bowl will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2010 for the 2011 game.
  • The Texas Bowl attracted a record crowd of 69,441 or more than 7,000 more than its previous record as Navy defeated Missouri, 35-13.
  • The Autozone Liberty Bowl tallied its second largest crowd in the 51 year history of the game. The 62,742 sold-out crowd also witnessed the first overtime in the game's history as Arkansas bested East Carolina, 20- 17.
  • The Gator Bowl sold out in less than two hours for Hall of Fame Coach Bobby Bowden's last game, and then added 6,000 extra seats by putting up temporary bleachers. More than 350 of Bowden's players attended as Florida State beat West Virginia 33-21.
  • The Rose Bowl continued the longest sellout streak in college football, which dates back to 1947, selling 93,963 tickets for the Oregon vs. Ohio State match-up.
  • The Fiesta Bowl also continued its sellout streak, which includes 25 of its past 26 games, including this year's crowd of 73,227.
  • The 43-year-old Chick-fil-A Bowl produced its 13 consecutive sellout with 73,777 in attendance. The Chick-fil-A Bowl has disbursed more than $95 million in team payouts over its 42-year history and gave way more than $1.2 million to charitable organizations in 2009 alone.
  • Cincinnati sold out its entire allocation of 17,500 tickets for the Sugar Bowl in less than four days with the university acquiring additional tickets and packing the Superdome with Bearcat fans.
  • The NFF and Fiesta Bowl celebrated the 5th National Hall of Fame Salute at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Next year will mark the 40th Anniversary of the Fiesta Bowl.
  • The National Football Foundation accepted the prestigious 2009 Omar N. Bradley "Spirit of Independence Award" from the The AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
  • Alabama (57 bowl appearances), Texas (49), Tennessee (48), Southern California (48), and Nebraska (46) remain the Top Five all-time for bowl appearances with Georgia just behind with 45 postseason visits.
  • A total of 43 different schools have participated in the 52 BCS games since the 1998 season.
  • Oklahoma has played in more BCS title games (four) than any other team, followed by Florida State and Ohio State (three apiece).
  • Florida and LSU remain the only two-time winners of a BCS Championship. There have been no back-to-back champions.
  • SMU played in its first bowl game in 25 years, claiming victory, 45-10, against Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl and launching a resurgent program under second-year coach June Jones.
  • In what was ESPN's 3rd most-watched bowl game ever, the Emerald Bowl attracted a sellout crowd of 40,121, who braved a pregame rainstorm, as USC held off the Boston College 24-13.
  • National leaders in current consecutive bowl games are Florida State 28, Florida 19, Virginia Tech 17, Georgia 13, Georgia Tech 13, Texas 12, Boston College 11, and Oklahoma 11. Nebraska still holds the all-time record with 35 straight trips, which occurred from 1969- 2003.
  • Southern California (6-1), Ohio State (5-3) and LSU (4- 0) have the most BCS bowl wins since 1998. Ohio State (eight), USC (seven) and Oklahoma (seven, 2-5) lead all schools in overall appearances in BCS bowls. The Southeastern Conference leads in total BCS victories with a 13-5 mark and .722 winning percentage.
  • Conference records in the 52 BCS bowls from the 1998-2009 seasons are SEC 13-5 (.722), Pac-10 9-5 (.643), WAC 2-1 (.667, both wins by Boise State), Big East 6-6 (.500), Big Ten 10-11 (.476), Big 12 7-10 (.412), ACC 2-10 (.167), and Independents (Notre Dame) 0-3 (.000).
  • Conference breakdown of BCS title game appearances from 1998-2009 has been Big 12 (7); SEC (6), ACC (3), Big East (3), Pac-10 (3), Big Ten (2).


2009-10 Chronological Bowl Results: (Attendance) & [Household Impressions] & (Rating)

  • New Mexico Bowl, ESPN: Wyoming 35, Fresno State 28. (24,898) & [2,749,880 ] & (2.78)
  • St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef 'O' Brady's, ESPN: Rutgers 45, UCF 24. (29,763) & [1,870,715] & ( 1.89)
  • R�L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, ESPN: Middle Tennessee 42, Southern Miss 32. (30,228) & [750,927 ] & (0.76)
  • MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, ESPN: Brigham Young 44, Oregon State 20. (40,018) & [2,557,232] & (2.58)
  • San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, ESPN: Utah 37, California 27. (32,665) & [2,779,335] & (2.81)
  • Sheraton Hawai'I Bowl, ESPN: SMU 45, Nevada 10. (32,650) & [1,951,227] & (1.97)
  • Little Caesar's Pizza, ESPN: Marshall 21, Ohio, 17. (30,311) & [2,944,051] & (2.97)
  • Meineke Car Care Bow, ESPN: Pittsburgh 19, North Carolina 17. (50,389) & [4,521,433] & (4.56)
  • Emerald Bowl, ESPN: Southern California 24, Boston College 13. (40,121) & [5,289,014] & (5.34)
  • Gaylord Hotels Music City, ESPN: Clemson 21, Kentucky 13. (57,280) & [1,932,067] & (1.95)
  • Advocare V100 Independence Bowl, ESPN2: Georgia 44, Texas A&M 20. (49,654) & [2,333,664] & (2.36)
  • Eagle Bank Bowl, ESPN: UCLA 30, Temple 21. (23,072) & [2,178,417] & (2.20)
  • Champs Sports, ESPN: Wisconsin 20, Miami (Fla.) 14. (56,747) & [4,487,617] & (4.53)
  • Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, ESPN: Idaho 43, Bowling Green 42. (26,726) & [2,362,232] & (2.39)
  • Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, ESPN: Nebraska 33, Arizona 0. (64,607) & [4,267,212] & (4.31)
  • Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, ESPN: Air Force 47, Houston 20. (41,414) & [1,807,049] & (1.83)
  • Brut Sun Bowl, CBS: Oklahoma 31, Stanford 27. (53,713) & [3,804,284] & (3.31)
  • Texas Bowl, ESPN: Navy 35, Missouri 13. (69,441) & [2,444,617] & (2.47)
  • Insight Bowl, NFLN: Iowa State 14, Minnesota 13. (45,090) & [458,834] & (0.83)
  • Chick-fil-a Bowl, ESPN: Virginia Tech 37, Tennessee 14. (73,777) & [4,852,111] & (4.90)
  • Outback Bowl, ESPN: Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 (49,383) & [4,019,687] & (4.06)
  • Capital One Bowl, ABC: Penn State 19, LSU 17. (63,025) & [7,842,566] & (6.83)
  • Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, CBS: Florida State 33, West Virginia 21. (84,129) & [4,533,249] & (3.95 )
  • Rose Bowl presented by Citi, ABC: Ohio State 26, Oregon 17. (93,963) & [15,143,206] & (13.18)
  • Allstate Sugar Bowl, Fox: Florida 51, Cincinnati 24. (65,207) & [9,765,647] & (8.50)
  • International Bowl, ESPN2: USF 27, Northern Illinois 3. (22,185) & [1,252,467] & (1.27)
  • PapaJohn' Bowl, ESPN: Connecticut 20, South Carolina. 7 (45,254) & [1,820,336] & (1.84)
  • AT&T Cotton Bowl, Fox: Ole Miss 21, Oklahoma State 7. (77,928) & [5,220,490] & (4.54)
  • AutoZone Liberty Bowl, ESPN: Arkansas 20, East Carolina 17. (62,742) & [4,332,457] & (4.38)
  • Valero Alamo Bowl, ESPN: Texas Tech 41, Michigan State 31. (64,757) & [5,553,630] & (5.61)
  • Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Fox: Boise State 17, TCU 10. (73,227) & [9,455,202] & (8.23)
  • FedEx Orange Bowl, Fox: Iowa 24, Georgia Tech 14. (66,131) & [7,814,965] & (6.80)
  • GMAC Bowl, ESPN: Central Michigan 44, Troy 41. (34,486) & [2,704,838] & (2.73)
  • Citi BCS Championship Game, ABC: Alabama 37, Texas 21. (94,906) & [19,730,421] & (17.17)

The NFF would like to thank the following people for providing information for this release, including NFF Correspondent Bo Carter, ESPN's Michael Humes, ESPN's Dave Nagle, CBS' Jen Sabatelle, the Big Ten Network's Mike Vest, Versus' Katie Bradshaw, The Mtn. - MountainWest Sports Network's Hayne Ellis, and NBC's Christopher McCloskey.