The Nittany Lions placed fourth in the 2004 survey with an average of 103,111 spectators for six games. Michigan (111,025 avg.), Tennessee (106,644) and Ohio State (104,876) were the only schools to top Penn State among the 612 NCAA members surveyed. Georgia (92,746) was fifth, followed by LSU, Florida, Southern California, Oklahoma and Texas.
Penn State's loyal and enthusiastic fans totaled 618,665 for six home games last season, led by crowds of 108,183 against Purdue and 108,062 for the Iowa game. The two energetic throngs ranked as the ninth and 10th largest crowds in Beaver Stadium history. The facility is the nation's second largest with a capacity of 107,282 and was expanded for the seventh time under Coach Joe Paterno prior to the 2001 season.
In a lengthy interview for the debute issue of Fight On State The Magazine (mailing later this month), Curley addressed the strong turnouts, which came in spite of the team's 4-7 record.
"Every once in a while people get concerned that instead of 108,000 you're at 105,000," Curley said. "Do you know how many other programs in America have 105,000 people coming to their game? So we go from second or third in attendance to fourth or fifth. That's a tremendous thing that we have in terms of our fan base. And obviously they're passionate about it and that's great, that there's that much interest in our program."
Penn State's five games away from Happy Valley drew 306,104 fans, swelling the Lions' total 2004 attendance to 924,769. Penn State has played in front of more than one million spectators in five of the past seven seasons.
The Nittany Lions finished second in NCAA attendance in 1994, 2001, '02 and '03, third in 1991, '92, '93, '95, '96, '97, '98 and '99 and fourth in 2000 and '04.
The Big Ten again claimed three of the top four spots in the survey and was second among all conferences with 4,591,722 fans, posting an average of 69,572 for 66 home dates. Big Ten members Wisconsin (13th, 82,368 avg.), Michigan State (20th, 73,602) and Iowa (21st, 70,397) also made the top 25 and Purdue was 26th (63,549).
The Southeastern Conference led with 5,719,678fans, an average of 74,282. The Big Ten was second, followed by the Big 12 (57,312), Pacific-10 (55,684) and Atlantic Coast (55,735) Conferences. Four of the top five conferences established record high averages in 2004.
The NCAA's 612 programs drew 43,105,548 fans for the four divisions. The nation's 118 Division I-A schools led the way, drawing 30,337,237 patrons for an average of 45,145. NCAA total attendance during the 2004 season was 43,105,548 across all four divisions.
The unparalleled interest in Penn State football has triggered seven expansions and renovations of Beaver Stadium since 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. Approximately 70 percent of the club seats were leased on a seasonal basis for the 2004 season, providing the amenities of the Mount Nittany Lounge throughout gameday.
The Nittany Lions return 19 starters (9 offense, 9 defense, 1 specialist) for the 2005 season. The Blue-White Game is set for April 23 at 2:00 p.m. in Beaver Stadium to launch Paterno's 40th season as head coach.