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Which Penn State Sports Teams Draw the Most Fans at Home?

by on March 02, 2018 12:00 AM

Penn State football is ranked No. 3.

In home attendance.

At 106,707 fans per game in Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions trailed only Michigan and Ohio State in home attendance in 2017, according to numbers recently released by the NCAA.

Which led us to ponder:

After football, which Penn State sports draw the most fans?

The usual suspects came to mind, although some of the biggest draws at Penn State are not typical across many college sports landscapes.

Nittany Lion wrestling, buoyed by annual blowouts in the BJC and sellouts in Rec Hall, and men's ice hockey still packing them in Pegula, rank No. 2 and 4. Cael Sanderson's grapplers averaged 7,693 fans per home match in 2018, led by the 15,998 who saw the Nittany Lions beat Iowa on Feb. 10 in the Bryce Jordan Center, setting Penn State and NCAA indoor dual meet records.

Guy Gadowsky's icers average 6,060 fans per home game and are still going strong after the transformational arena opened five years ago. In fact, the week before the wrestlers set the attendance mark at the BJC, the men's hockey team had its second-largest crowd ever (6,229), trailing only the Pegula record of 6,370, set opening night against Army in 2013.

Sneaking in at No. 3 is men's basketball, as Pat Chambers' squad has ridden a 20-win season to an average home crowd of 7,345.

But who's next?

That's what we aimed to find out. Penn State does not keep such records in one place. So we spent a few hours combing Penn State's website, and pouring over a few old-fashioned media guides to find out.

And this is what we learned: There are 17 Penn State teams that in 2017-18 have averaged at least 500 fans per home game. Pretty impressive.

After men's ice hockey at No. 4, four of the next five slots are occupied by women's squads, testament to the depth of quality among the teams and the fans that follow them. The teams are, from No. 5-9, women's volleyball (3,540 fans per home game), women's basketball (3,307), women's soccer (1,709) men's lacrosse (1,474) and women's gymnastics (1,123).

But nothing beats football, which has seen its home attendance increase by over 10,000 fans during James Franklin's reign, beginning in 2014.

In fact, it takes just five home football games in Beaver Stadium to draw more fans than all other teams combined for a sports season — which in 2017-18 is just over 497,000 total fans. This includes all basketball, wrestling and men's ice hockey home games, plus 13 additional sports.


Here are the rankings of home attendance for Penn State's top spectator sports, based on per-game averages for the 2017 and the 2017-18 seasons, using statistics that appear on Penn State's website,

The attendance figures for both lacrosse teams, as well as baseball and softball, are from the complete home schedule for the 2017 spring seasons. The men's and women's gymnastics teams have held two double-dual meets in 2018, so the total attendance for those meets has been split evenly between each team.

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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