College Football Fills Stadiums, Kills TV Ratings During COVID Comeback

This has been the first, full weekend of college football for the 2021 season, and the pandemic certainly didn't scare fans from the stands. Nor did the Labor Day weekend keep folks away from their TV sets.

On the heels of a COVID-shortened season that saw few fans at stadiums, folks flocked to their favorite college arenas to kickoff the 2021 campaign. From Michigan to Florida and Georgia to California, there hardly seemed to be an empty seat in some of America's biggest stadiums. And there hardly seemed to be a mask as well.

Couple that with a slew of great matchups, then it was a great success for college football.

NFL, you're on the clock.

Here are some of the announced attendances around the country last weekend:

  • 109,295 — Western Michigan at Michigan
  • 97,339 — Kent State at Texas A&M
  • 91,113 — Louisiana at Texas
  • 86,840 — FAU at Florida
  • 85,938 — Fordham at Nebraska
  • 84,314 — Bowling Green at Tennessee
  • 83,821 — Akron at Auburn
  • 76,832 — Penn State at Wisconsin
  • 74,187 — Georgia vs Clemson (in Charlotte, NC)
  • 71,829 — Alabama vs Miami (in Atlanta, Ga.)

There may have been more people at a particular game that cracks these 10 games, but this is just a small sample of folks making it to in-person games by the waves.

College Football Fans
Oklahoma Sooners fans watch as quarterback Michael Pratt #7 of the Tulane Green Wave runs a play in the red zone against the Oklahoma Sooners defense in the first quarter at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 4, 2021 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma won 40-35 in what was originally a home game for Tulane before being moved due to Hurricane Ida. Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The number of fans at games should be much greater this coming weekend as teams with big stadiums like Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State will all play their home openers on the weekend of Sept. 11.

The TV ratings were also a bonanza this weekend with several great matchups. ESPN and ABC, in particular, did well.

Saturday's @ABCNetwork 🏈 tripleheader πƒπ„π‹πˆπ•π„π‘π„πƒ:

- Georgia/Clemson on track to become the 2nd-most-viewed Kickoff Saturday game on 𝐚𝐧𝐲 network in 15 years

- #UGAvsCLEM, #ALAvsMIA, #OUvsTULN combined for ABC's best Kickoff Saturday tripleheader since 2017 pic.twitter.com/p4xc1uqfTS

— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) September 5, 2021

The Saturday night game between top-5 teams Clemson and Georgia was the second-most seen season kickoff game—over any network—in the last 15 years, and it's up 16 percent from a similar game in the 2019 season.

The afternoon game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 14 Miami drew 6.1 million viewers by the end of the first half, and it averaged a little more than 5 million viewers for the entire game. This happened in the same time slot No. 23 Louisiana played at No. 21 Texas on the Fox network, which had its own appetizing tripleheader Saturday of: Penn State at Wisconsin, Louisiana at Texas and LSU at UCLA.

ABC's final tally of the day was its best opening weekend since 2017. This year's triple header averaged 5.04 million viewers, greater than 2018 and 2019.

Views could dwindle over the next couple of weekends with fewer marquee matchups, but fans are likely to keep filling seats. This weekend's top games are Oregon at Ohio State, Iowa at Iowa State, Texas at Arkansas, and Texas A&M at Colorado.