National Football Foundation

News Detail

2015 Report: College Football Ratings and Attendance Remain Strong
Rise of digital streaming, network viewership and solid attendance figures signal sport’s relevance across the country.
Published: 4/6/2016 11:00:00 AM
(Pictured: The NFF highlighted multiple impressive facts from the 2015 college football season that emphasize the strong popularity of college football among millions of fans across the country. The second CFP National Championship (above) ranked as the best game ever on WatchESPN across all major metrics, excluding the 2014 FIFA World Cup, showcasing the increasing trend of digital streaming.)

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IRVING, Texas (April 6, 2016
) – The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame highlighted today multiple impressive facts from the 2015 college football season that emphasize the strong popularity of college football among millions of fans across the country.

“The already intense interest in college football continues to grow,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “Embracing ever changing technology, the leaders of our sport have done a spectacular job in ensuring that the fan experience not only keeps pace but sets the standard in innovation. We are grateful to the conferences, bowl games and the media for their creativity and commitment in delivering a first-class product that allows fans to experience the game in every imaginable way.”

The top highlights include:

Digital Era Continues to Grow:
The 2015 college football season continued the increasing trend of fans watching games through means other than just their televisions. ESPN’s streaming service, WatchESPN, saw per game increases of 54 percent in average minute impressions, 38 percent in total unique viewers and 53 percent in total minutes viewed. Factoring in both the regular season and bowl season, seven of the top 10 most-streamed college football games ever occurred during the 2015 season and all 10 have occurred since January 2015.

The second CFP National Championship, presented on multiple streams through the ESPN Megacast, ranked as the best game ever on WatchESPN across all major metrics, excluding the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The game experienced increases of 23 percent in average minute impressions, 38 percent in unique viewers and 32 percent in total minutes compared to last year’s inaugural game.

Major Networks See Steady Growth in Viewership
:
CBS averaged a 3.4 rating for SEC football this season, making it the highest rated regular-season college football package on any network for the seventh consecutive year. CBS scored the season’s highest-rated and most-watched college football game with the SEC Championship on Dec. 5, and its coverage of the 116th Army-Navy Game was the highest rated and most-watched game between the rivals since 1999 and 1994, respectively.

ESPN-rated networks
(ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS) averaged 1,852,000 viewers for the 270 games televised in the 2015 college football regular season, a rise of 4 percent in viewership compared to 2014 regular season. ESPN alone averaged 2,721,000 viewers for the 74 games the network aired, marking the fourth consecutive year viewership has increased. The top five cable TV audiences of all time are all college football postseason games.

Heading into conference championship week, ABC Saturday Night Football was the most-watched series in all of college football, across all networks, averaging 5,340,000 viewers. College football games on FOX were up 19 percent in rating and up 15 percent in viewership in 2015. This season, FOX saw its highest-rated and most-watched regular season game ever, with Stanford’s win over Notre Dame on Nov. 28, which posted a 4.3/11 with more than 7.3 million viewers.

NCAA Programs Attract More than 49 Million and SEC Sets Attendance Record
:
The SEC set an all-time record across all conferences with 7,784,376 fans in 2015, leading all FBS conferences in average attendance for the 18th consecutive year with 78,630 fans per game. The 666 NCAA football programs drew 49,057,966 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason games in 2015. The numbers symbolize a phenomenal increase of 156 percent from the 19,134,159 fans that the NCAA reported when they first started collecting attendance figures in 1948*. The American Athletic Conference, Big Ten and the Sun Belt all set single-season conference attendance records.

The 41 bowl games this season (including the CFP National Championship) attracted 1,796,498 spectators to the stands (43,817 per contest), and 15 bowl games had crowds in excess of 50,000. Eleven of the returning 39 bowl games increased by more than 4,000 fans over last season. The FCS attracted a record 258,066 fans to its 23 playoff games while the Division II National Championship game in Kansas City, Kan., set an attendance record of 16,181 spectators.




The game has benefited enormously from the commitment of every major media sports outlet, including the American Sports Network, Big Ten Network, BYUtv, CBS, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN Classic, ESPN on ABC, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNews, ESPNU, FOX Sports, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, FOX College Sports, FOX Sports Net, the Longhorn Network, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Pac-12 Networks, Root Sports, SEC Network and multiple regional and local outlets. Throughout the regular and bowl seasons, these outlets continue to capitalize on college football’s ever-increasing popularity to produce an increasingly dynamic product that engages fans on new levels.

Regular Season Attendance Highlights
  • The overall attendance for NCAA football games across all three divisions drew 49,057,966 fans at home games, neutral-site games and postseason games in 2015.
  • The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) drew 37,957,921 spectators or an average of 43,933 fans per game. The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) pulled in 5,571,456 fans, followed by Division II with 3,003,019 and Division III with 2,357,469.
  • The SEC led all FBS conferences in average attendance for the 18th consecutive year with an all-conference record 78,630 fans per home game, with more than 7.7 million total fans attending SEC games in 2015. Six SEC schools were in the nation’s Top 10 in average attendance.
  • The top-five conferences for average attendance included the SEC (78,630), Big Ten (66,008), Big 12 (57,347) Pac-12 (51,880) and ACC (49,033).
  • The Big Ten set a new single-season attendance record in 2015 with 6,534,801 fans attending games, marking the third consecutive season that more than six million fans attended home and neutral site contests and the fourth time in the past five years.
  • Average attendance at American Athletic Conference set a single-season conference record with 2,419,994 fans attending home and neutral site games. The conference saw a 9.1 percent increase to average 31,842 fans per game in 2015.
  • Additional conference setting total attendance records in 2015 included the Sun Belt Conference in the FBS (1,101,365) and the Big South in the FCS (291,162).
  • Michigan returned to the top of the FBS attendance charts after averaging 110,168 fans per home game in 2015. Five other programs also averaged more than 100,000: Ohio State (107,244), Texas A&M (103,622), LSU (102,004), Alabama (101,112) and Tennessee (100,584). Penn State (99,799), Georgia (92,746), Florida (90,065) and Texas (90,035) rounded out the top ten.
  • Other universities with more than 80,000 fans per home game included Nebraska (89,998), Auburn (87,451), Oklahoma (85,357), Clemson (84,038) and Notre Dame (80,795).
  • Michigan has led the nation in individual average game attendance for all but one year since 1974 when in 2014 both Ohio State and Texas A&M notched higher totals.
  • Temple posted the largest attendance gain during the 2015 season, playing in front of an average home crowd of 44,159, an increase of 20,789 per game.
  • Other universities that saw an increase of more than 5,000 fans per home game included Memphis (9,951), Akron (8,928), Cincinnati (8,257), Pittsburgh (6,835), Houston (5,669), Southern Miss (5,595), Michigan (5,259) and New Mexico State (5,217).
  • Alabama led all teams with 1,354,327 fans attending 15 games in 2015 (including all home and away games and the postseason). Ten other teams also eclipsed more than one million spectators during the season: Florida (1,168,182), Ohio State (1,156, 844), Michigan (1,141,598), Tennessee (1,131,422), Penn State (1,112,170), Texas A&M (1,104,438), Auburn (1,087,875), Clemson (1,082,512), Georgia (1,074,153) and Michigan State (1,064,492).
  • Montana again claimed the FCS attendance title, drawing 168,975 fans for an average of 24,139 per home game. Jacksonville State (20,598), Yale (20,547), James Madison (19,498) and Montana State (19,172) rounded out the top five in average attendance.
  • Grand Valley State (Mich.) captured the Division II attendance title for the second year in a row, attracting 74,187 fans for an average of 12,365 per game. Tuskegee (Ala.) with 10,663; Pittsburg State (Kan.) with 9,856; Central Missouri with 9,099; and North Alabama with 7,970 rounded out the top five in average attendance.
  • Saint John’s (Minn.) led Division III in attendance at 53,372 fans for an average of 7,625 per game. Rounding out the top five in average attendance were Wisconsin-Whitewater with 6,122; Emory & Henry (Va.) with 5,496; Geneva (Pa.) with 4,797; and Hampden-Sydney (Va.) with 4,710.
  • The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) earned its 37th FCS attendance title in 38 years, averaging 12,823 fans for a total of 653,962. The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) again netted the Division II attendance title, averaging 6,074 fans per game. The Minnesota Intercollegiate Conference claimed its 10th attendance title in 11 years with 3,286 fans per game.
  • East Tennessee State, which relaunched its football program in 2015, saw better attendance numbers this past season than it did during its last season back in 2003. The average attendance for the university’s six home games in 2015 was 7,128 while the 2003 attendance average was 5,512 per game. 
  • Kennesaw State sold out all six of its home games during its inaugural season in 2015, attracting an average of 8,820 fans per game.

Regular Season Ratings Highlights
  • For the seventh consecutive year, the “SEC ON CBS” was the highest-rated regular season college football package on any network. CBS Sports’ national coverage of SEC football averaged a national household rating/share of 3.4/8. This marked the 20th season of SEC football on CBS.
  • CBS also scored the season’s highest-rated and most-watched college football game with the SEC Championship between Alabama and Florida on Dec. 5. The game delivered an average national household rating/share of 7.8/17 and averaged 12.76 million viewers.
  • CBS also had the second most-watched game of the season: Alabama’s primetime showdown versus LSU on Nov. 7, which averaged 11.06 million viewers. 
  • Rounding out the top five most-watched games were Michigan State-Ohio State on ABC in week 12 (11.05 million viewers), Ohio State-Michigan on ABC in week 13 (10.83 million) and Ohio State-Virginia Tech on ESPN in week one (10.59 million).
  • The week one kickoff game between Ohio State and Virginia Tech on ESPN attracted 10,585,000 viewers, making it the most-watched opening weekend college football game ever on ESPN or ABC.
  • WatchESPN usage continued to rise in 2015. Factoring in both the regular season and bowl season, seven of the top 10 most-streamed college football games ever occurred this season and all 10 have occurred since January 2015, based on unique viewers.
  • In 2015, WatchESPN saw per game increases of 54 percent in average minute impressions, 38 percent in total unique viewers and 53 percent in total minutes viewed.
  • ESPN-rated networks (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS) averaged 1,852,000 viewers for the 270 games televised in the 2015 college football regular season, a rise of 4 percent in viewership compared to 2014 regular season.
  • ESPN alone averaged 2,721,000 viewers for the 74 games the network aired, marking the fourth consecutive year viewership has increased.
  • ABC averaged 4,979,000 viewers for 41 game-windows, the most ever carried by ABC in a single season.
  • ABC Saturday Night Football was the most-watched series in all of college football, across all networks, averaging 5,340,000 viewers.
  • College football games on FOX in 2015 were up 19 percent in ratings (1.9 vs. 1.6) and up 15 percent in viewership (3.0 million vs. 2.6 million).
  • Combined, college football games featuring the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Conference USA on FOX and FOX Sports 1 posted an average viewership increase of 12 percent over 2014.
  • This season, FOX saw its highest-rated and most-watched regular season game ever, with Stanford’s win over Notre Dame on Nov. 28, which posted a 4.3/11 with more than 7.3 million viewers.
  • FOX Sports 1 opened the 2015 season on Thursday, Sept. 3, with the highest-rated, most-watched game in the channel’s history. Utah’s 24-17 win over Michigan posted a 1.73 household rating with more than 2.8 million viewers.
  • NBC’s top college football games included a 2.5 rating for Southern California-Notre Dame in week seven and 4.1 million viewers for Texas-Notre Dame in week one. The week one game against Texas was the most-watched Notre Dame home opener since the 2006 game against Penn State.
  • CBS’ coverage of the 116th Army-Navy Game earned a 4.5 final rating and 7.1 million viewers, making it the highest rated and most-watched game between the rivals since 1999 and 1994, respectively. Ratings for the Army-Navy Game have now increased for five consecutive seasons.
  • During the opening weekend of the 2015 season between Thursday, Sept. 3, and Monday, Sept. 7, ESPN televised eight games averaging 3,356,000 viewers, up 27 percent from the seven games which aired during 2014’s opening weekend on ESPN.
  • NBC Sports Network televised its first-ever Notre Dame football game on Nov. 21 (a 19-16 victory over Boston College at Fenway Park), which averaged 2.0 million viewers to rank as the network’s most-watched college football game ever.
  • The game between Wisconsin and Alabama on ABC’s Saturday Night Football in week one drew a 4.3 final rating and 8.0 million viewers, making it the second-most watched Saturday Night Football opener in nine years.
  • The 2015 edition of the Red River Rivalry on ABC averaged 4,992,000 viewers, making it the most-watched Texas-Oklahoma game since 2011, up 18 percent from 2014, 6 percent from 2013 and 12 percent from 2012.
  • The Big Ten Championship Game on FOX between Michigan State and Iowa attracted 9.8 million viewers and a 5.7/11 household rating/share, increases of 63 percent and 61 percent over last year’s game, respectively.
  • The MAC Championship Game between Bowling Green and Northern Illinois had a 0.7 final rating and 1.0 million viewers on ESPN2, an increase of 40 percent in ratings and viewership from the same matchup in last year’s game.
  • In 2015, ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot averaged 1,961,000 viewers per episode (14 shows), the most-watched regular season since the show expanded to three hours in 2013. The record-setting viewership represents a 5 percent increase from last season and 7 percent from 2013. Overall, five of the seven most-watched three-hour episodes occurred this season.
  • For the 2015-16 regular season, the American Sports Network televised 83 live football games from multiple NCAA Division I college conferences, in addition to 11 games from NCAA Division II conferences.

Postseason Attendance Highlights
  • The 41 bowl games (including the CFP National Championship) this season attracted 1,796,498 spectators to the stands (43,817 per contest). The total number of fans represents an overall increase of 65,974 from 2014-15. Seventy-seven percent of all stadium seating was utilized, the best aggregate total since 2011-12.
  • The Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual ranked as the highest-attended bowl game with 94,268 fans watching Stanford defeat Iowa, 45-16. Six other bowl games attracted more than 71,000 fans: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic/CFP Semifinal (82,812); CFP National Championship (75,765); Allstate Sugar Bowl (72,117); AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (71,307); BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl (71,123); and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (71,007).
  • The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (82,812) between Alabama and Michigan State and the Capital One Orange Bowl (67,615) between Clemson and Oklahoma both saw 16 percent increases in attendance over last year. Both games served as CFP Semifinals.
  • The attendance of 72,117 at the Allstate Sugar Bowl between Mississippi and Oklahoma State marked the 61st time in the bowl’s 82-year history it attracted more than 70,000 fans.
  • The sellout crowd of 71,307 at the 2015 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl between LSU and Texas Tech was the highest attendance in the bowl’s history and its second-straight sellout.
  • The Birmingham Bowl had the biggest increase in attendance this season, drawing 59,430 fans to see in-state Auburn and Memphis. The game experienced a 98 percent increase over last year’s 30,083 that watched Florida and East Carolina.
  • After previously selling out in December, the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl added 2,600 tickets and seats for the game between Ohio State and Notre Dame due to high demand. A sold-out crowd of 71,123 witnessed the Buckeyes’ victory on New Year’s Day.
  • The 30,289 people in attendance at the Gildan New Mexico Bowl between Arizona and New Mexico marked the third largest total in its history and the highest since the 2010 contest.
  • Arkansas defeated Kansas State, 45-23, in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl before a sellout crowd of 61,136, the fourth-largest crowd in the game's 57-year history.
  • Utah’s win over BYU came before a sold-out crowd of 42,213, which ranked as the second largest in Las Vegas Bowl history, behind only the 44,615 that saw BYU defeat Oregon in 2006. The 42,213 was up 28 percent from last year.
  • The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl attracted 63,113 fans for its matchup of Michigan and Florida, the bowl's largest crowd since the two teams met in the 2008 edition. The total also produced a 30 percent increase above last season.
  • Announced attendance for college football’s 39 returning postseason games increased two percent, with 23 games (59 percent) reporting higher crowd totals than last season. In all, 14 games attracted capacity or over-capacity attendances.
  • Fifteen bowl games had crowds in excess of 50,000: Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual (94,268), CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (82,812), CFP National Championship (75,765), Allstate Sugar Bowl (72,117), AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (71,307), BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl (71,123), Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (71,007), CFP Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl (67,615), Valero Alamo Bowl (64,569), Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (63,113), AutoZone Liberty Bowl (61,136), Birmingham Bowl (59,430), TaxSlayer Bowl (58,212), Outback Bowl (53,202) and Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (50,478).
  • Eleven of the returning 39 bowl games increased attendance by more than 4,000 fans above last season.
  • The 2015 ACC Football Championship Game between Clemson and North Carolina drew a crowd of 74,514 fans, the most in the 11-year history of the game. The crowd was also the largest in the 20-year history of Bank of America Stadium, breaking a mark set by the Carolina Panthers in 2014.
  • The FCS attracted a record 258,066 fans to its 23 playoff games for an average of 11,220 per game. The Division II tournament drew 111,853 fans for an average of 4,143 over 27 games. The Division III playoffs attracted 66,834 for an average of 2,156 over 31 games.
  • The 2016 FCS Championship between North Dakota State and Jacksonville State attracted 21,836 fans, the highest mark in the six years Frisco, Texas, has hosted the championship and the most overall since 2007.
  • The Division II National Championship in Kansas City, Kan., between Northwest Missouri State and Shepherd (W.Va.) set an attendance record for the game with 16,181 spectators.

Postseason Ratings Highlights
  • The top five cable TV audiences of all time are all college football postseason games.
  • ESPN’s Megacast presentation of the College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship on Jan. 11 between Alabama and Clemson delivered a 16.0 overnight rating, ESPN’s third-best overnight for any game, ever, across all sports.
  • The regular ESPN telecast of the CFP National Championship averaged 26,182,357 viewers, based on a 14.7 rating, making it the most-watched cable program since the inaugural CFP National Championship last year. The audience is the sixth best of any cable program in history.
  • Digitally, the CFP National Championship, presented on multiple streams on WatchESPN through the ESPN Megacast, ranked as the best game ever on WatchESPN across all major metrics, excluding the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The game experienced increases of 23 percent in average minute impressions, 38 percent in unique viewers and 32 percent in total minutes compared to last year’s inaugural game.
  • The first two years of the CFP format have resulted in WatchESPN’s six most-streamed college football games, in terms of unique viewers.
  • The CFP Semifinals at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and Capital One Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve earned 9.9 and 9.7 overnight ratings, marking ESPN’s fifth and seventh best overnights for a non-championship college football game on record.
  • ESPN’s second presentation of the New Year’s Six (Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Capital One Orange Bowl, Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl, The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual and the Allstate Sugar Bowl) averaged a 7.1 overnight rating.
  • Four of the New Year’s Six bowl games saw ratings increases from their same bowl last year (i.e. Cotton Bowl vs. Cotton Bowl), including the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl between Notre Dame and Ohio State on New Year’s Day, which earned a 6.2 overnight, up 35 percent from the Fiesta Bowl last season.
  • The overnight rating for the CFP Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl was up 102 percent, the CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic was up 87 percent, and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl was up 21 percent.
  • On WatchESPN, the New Year’s Six averaged 200,170 average minute impressions, 776,000 unique viewers and 43,871,000 total minutes for the six games, up 69 percent, 54 percent and 67 percent in each category, respectively.
  • On WatchESPN, the 2015 Fiesta Bowl was the most-streamed Fiesta Bowl ever, setting new record highs in all major metrics: 159,000 average minute impressions, 693,000 total unique viewers and 35,822,000 total minutes.
  • The four bowls which were not designated as a CFP Semifinal this season (Peach, Fiesta, Rose and Sugar) averaged a 5.8 overnight rating, up 26 percent from the four bowls last season which were not semifinals (Peach, Fiesta, Orange and Cotton).
  • The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve between Houston and Florida State garnered a 4.0 overnight rating, up 21 percent from last year’s Peach Bowl.
  • The 2015 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic received the highest overnight for the bowl game on record, across all networks, dating back to 2005. The game garnered a 9.6 rating with 18.6 million viewers, up 83 and 104 percent over last season, respectively.
  • The matchup between Arkansas and Kansas State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl drew a 4.4 rating and 7.0 million viewers on ESPN, which are increases of 99 percent and 113 percent over last season’s edition, respectively. The game ranks as the most-watched Liberty Bowl in at least 10 seasons.
  • The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl between Michigan and Florida drew a 5.1 final rating and 8.8 million viewers on New Year’s Day. The game on ABC had the largest audience outside of the New Year’s Six, and it was up 42 percent in ratings and 46 percent in viewership from last year.
  • The TaxSlayer Bowl between Georgia and Penn State earned 5.9 million viewers and a 3.7 household rating on ESPN, up 43 percent and 41 percent over last year’s game, respectively. It was the most-watched edition of the game since leaving broadcast television six years ago.
  • TCU’s remarkable comeback win over Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl on ESPN saw an increase of 29 percent in rating (4.4 vs. 3.4) and 32 percent in viewers (7.4 million vs. 5.6 million) over last season.
  • The Hyundai Sun Bowl between Washington State and Miami (Fla.) had a 2.9 final rating and 4.7 million viewers on CBS, the highest-rated Sun Bowl since 2010 and most-watched since 2009.
  • The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl between Washington and Southern Mississippi drew 2.6 million viewers on ESPN, the largest audience in the six-season history of the game.
  • The Foster Farms Bowl between Nebraska and UCLA had 4.0 million viewers on ESPN, up 25 percent from last season. The game was the most-watched edition of the Foster Farms Bowl in six years.
  • The second Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, featuring Western Michigan and Middle Tennessee, drew 2.1 million viewers on ESPN, up 43 percent from last year’s inaugural edition.
  • Six bowl games saw an increase of more than 65 percent in viewership: AutoZone Liberty Bowl (113), Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (104), Capital One Orange Bowl (75), Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (73), GoDaddy Bowl (71) and Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (66).
  • Birmingham, Ala., was the No. 1 local market for the CFP National Championship, earning a 59.2 overnight, the market’s third best overnight for a postseason college football game on ESPN. Greenville, S.C., was the second highest local market, achieving a 39.0, the market’s best overnight ever for a postseason college football game on ESPN.
  • Other markets setting record ratings during the CFP National Championship for an ESPN postseason college football game included Atlanta (30.1); Charlotte (22.8); Nashville, Tenn. (29.1); Raleigh-Durham, N.C. (20.2); and Norfolk, Va. (18.4).
  • Birmingham, Ala., was the highest-rated market across the New Year’s Six, with a 23.6 average rating for the six games. Rounding out the top 10 markets were Columbus, Ohio (17.3); Tulsa, Okla. (14.1); Oklahoma City (14.0); Greenville, S.C. (13.8); Dayton, Ohio (12.7); Cleveland (12.3); Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn. (12.2); and New Orleans (12.1).
  • The FCS National Championship game between North Dakota State and Jacksonville State scored 1.4 million viewers on ESPN2.
  • ESPN networks aired 39 bowl games and all 23 games of the FCS playoffs.
  • 29 of the 39 returning bowl games each attracted more than 2 million viewers with the top ten contests each drawing more than 5.8 million fans, and 21 bowl games garnered a 2.1 or better household rating. Ratings and viewership numbers for the inaugural AutoNation Cure Bowl (CBS Sports Network) and NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl (American Sports Network/Campus Insiders) were unavailable.
  • The 2016 Reese’s Senior Bowl earned 758,000 viewers on the NFL Network, up 14 percent from last year (668,000) and tied with 2014 as the most-watched edition of the game since 2011.

Notable Bowl Facts and Milestones
  • Alabama’s 45-40 victory over Clemson in the CFP National Championship gave the Crimson Tide its 16th national championship. It was also head coach Nick Saban’s fifth national title.
  • The NFF announced the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame Class at the media hotel the Friday before the CFP National Championship. Members of the class, including Bert Jones (LSU), Pat McInally (Harvard) and Rod Woodson (Purdue), took part in pregame festivities and the coin toss prior to the title game. The NFF also recognized 2015 William V. Campbell Trophy winner Ty Darlington (Oklahoma) at the game between the first and second quarters.
  • The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl hosted the 11th Annual NFF National Hall of Fame Salute, featuring the 2015 College Football Hall of Fame Class.
  • The NFF inducted Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill into the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame at an induction dinner that served as the kickoff event for the CFP National Championship weekend.
  • The CFP announced that Atlanta, Santa Clara/Bay Area and New Orleans will host the CFP National Championships in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively.
  • The number of bowl games increased to a record of 41 in 2015, with the inaugural editions of the AutoNation Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., and the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson, Ariz.
  • CBS aired the Hyundai Sun Bowl for the 48th consecutive season, the longest continuous relationship between a bowl game and one TV network. The 2015 Sun Bowl featured Washington State and Miami (Fla.), and CBS aired a segment at halftime featuring 2015 William V. Campbell Trophy recipient Ty Darlington (Oklahoma).
  • Alabama made its record 63rd postseason appearance.
  • The SEC is the first conference in college football history to send at least 10 teams to bowl games in three consecutive seasons. The conference has sent no less than eight teams to bowls in each of the last 10 seasons.
  • The SEC set an NCAA record with nine bowl victories, while boasting an impressive 82 percent winning percentage in its 11 postseason games.
  • Eighteen teams posted at least 45 points in their respective bowl games: Georgia Southern (58), LSU (56), Boise State (55), California (55), Virginia Tech (55), Tulsa (52), Mississippi State (51), Baylor (49), Mississippi (48), Louisiana Tech (47), TCU (47), Alabama (45 – CFP National Championship), Arizona (45), Arkansas (45), Stanford (45), Tennessee (45), Western Kentucky (45) and Western Michigan (45).
  • Baylor ran for an all-time, NCAA bowl-record 645 yards in its 49-38 victory over North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Bears running back Johnny Jefferson’s 299 rushing yards are the second-most all-time in NCAA bowl history.
  • Florida State played in a bowl game this year for the 34th consecutive year, the longest current streak in the nation, which started with the 1982 season.
  • Appalachian State won in its first-ever NCAA bowl game appearance, defeating Ohio in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. The Mountaineers became the first program to win a bowl game in its first season as a full-fledged member of the FBS.
  • Georgia Southern defeated Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl, 58-27, to claim its first bowl victory in its first year of postseason eligibility.
  • Alabama running back Derrick Henry became the 19th player in FBS history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season during the Crimson Tide’s 38-0 victory over Michigan State in the CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
  • Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 405 passing yards are the most in National Championship Game history, breaking former Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart’s record of 365 yards.
  • Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds set FBS records for most rushing yards by a quarterback (4,559) and most career rushing touchdowns among all players (88) during the Midshipmen’s win over Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl.
  • Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey gained a Rose Bowl-record 368 all-purpose yards in the Cardinal’s 45-16 win over Iowa, finishing the season with an FBS-record 3,864 all-purpose yards. He became the first player in Rose Bowl history with 100 yards both rushing and receiving.
  • TCU’s 31-point comeback against Oregon to win the Valero Alamo Bowl tied the largest comeback for any bowl game in NCAA history. Texas Tech also rallied from 31 points down against Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl.
  • LSU running back Leonard Fournette’s five touchdowns in the Texas Bowl tied the record for the most in a bowl game in NCAA history.
  • Retiring Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer recorded his 280th win, including 238 at Tech, after the Hokies beat Tulsa in the Camping World Independence Bowl. The win also marked his 11th bowl victory and 23 straight winning seasons.
  • The combined 107 points, 1,161 yards of total offense, 14 touchdowns and 57 first downs between Virginia Tech and Tulsa are all Independence Bowl records. The 76 combined first-half points were the most ever in any half of any NCAA Division I bowl.
  • In Mississippi State’s 51-28 victory over North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl, Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott threw for a Belk Bowl-record 380 yards and four touchdowns. In doing so, he became just the fourth player in FBS history to throw for 9,000 yards and run for 2,500 yards in their career.
  • In the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson became just the third player in NCAA bowl history with 200 yards both rushing and passing in a game.
  • The 48 points scored by Mississippi in its victory over Oklahoma State were the third most points scored in Sugar Bowl history.
  • Bowls celebrating notable milestones included the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (80th), Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (70th) and Outback Bowl (30th).
  • The Pac-12 sent a conference record 10 teams to bowl games. In terms of percentage of membership achieving bowl eligibility, the Pac-12 led all conferences at 83.3 percent.
  • The MAC tied a conference record by sending seven teams to bowl games in 2015.
  • The Sun Belt tied a conference record by sending four teams to postseason bowls.
  • North Dakota State won its fifth straight FCS National Championship, becoming the first school across all NCAA divisions to win five championships in a row. The Bison now have 13 national titles all time, including eight at the Division II level.
  • Mount Union (Ohio) beat St. Thomas (Minn.) for its record 12th Division III National Championship. The Purple Raiders have made it to the championship game 11 years in a row, and 2015 was their 19th appearance overall since 1993.
  • In the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region, the Allstate Sugar Bowl has produced an overall economic impact of $2,528,900,000 in New Orleans and Louisiana. For the organization’s full slate of events in 2015, including the Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic on Jan. 1, 2016, the economic impact was $264.05 million.
  • The Orlando Sports Foundation presented a check at halftime of the inaugural AutoNation Cure Bowl for $150,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, representing the single largest donation ever made by a bowl game to a charitable cause.
  • The Allstate Sugar Bowl and the College Football Playoff donated $200,000 to Teach For America in New Orleans.
  • The Fiesta Bowl and the College Football Playoff donated $100,000 to Teach For America in Phoenix.
  • The 2015 Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman directly generated nearly $17 million for the Annapolis, Md./Washington, D.C. region.
  • Oklahoma made its 19th Orange Bowl appearance, more than any other school. It was also the Sooners’ 17th consecutive bowl bid.
  • Utah has won 12 of its last 13 bowl games, and nine of 10 under head coach Kyle Whittingham.
  • Akron claimed its first FBS bowl win in school history with a 23-21 victory over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Zips finished with eight wins for the first time since moving up to the FBS in 1987.
  • Western Michigan captured its first bowl win in program history after a 45-31 win against Middle Tennessee in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
  • With a 44-41 overtime victory against Indiana in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Duke won its first bowl game since beating Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.
  • San Diego State became the first team to open with a 1-3 record or worse and then win every remaining game, including the bowl game, in 29 years.
  • Marshall’s 16-10 victory over Connecticut in the St. Petersburg Bowl capped a third straight 10-plus win season and the fifth consecutive bowl game win for coach Doc Holliday and the Herd.
  • Louisiana Tech won back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history while setting or tying 17 different New Orleans Bowl records in its 47-28 victory over Arkansas State.
  • The inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl matched champions of the two historically black Division-I conferences, the MEAC and the SWAC. North Carolina A&T defeated Alcorn State, 41-34, in front of 35,528 people at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

2015-16 Chronological Bowl Results:

Bowl Result. (Attendance) & [US HH coverage rating] & (Household Impressions) & [Viewers (P2+)]

  • Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, ABC: North Carolina A&T 41 – Alcorn State 34. (35,528) & [1.7] & (1,993,232) & [2,559,507]
  • Gildan New Mexico Bowl, ESPN: Arizona 45 – New Mexico 37. (30,289) & [1.3] & (1,465,431) & [1,832,481]
  • Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, ABC: Utah 35 – BYU 28. (42,213) & [2.2] & (2,610,026) & [3,674,997]
  • Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, ESPN: Appalachian State 31 – Ohio 29. (21,395) & [1.2] & (1,378,544) & [1,849,755]
  • AutoNation Cure Bowl, CBS Sports Network: San Jose State 27 – Georgia State 16. (18,536) & [N/A] & (N/A) & [N/A]
  • R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, ESPN: Louisiana Tech 47 – Arkansas State 28. (32,847) & [0.9] & (1,044,233) & [1,418,567]
  • Miami Beach Bowl, ESPN: Western Kentucky 45 – South Florida 35. (21,712) & [0.8] & (903,221) & [1,151,826]
  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, ESPN: Akron 23 – Utah State 21. (18,876) & [0.8] & (913,382) & [1,076,246]
  • Marmot Boca Raton Bowl, ESPN: Toledo 32 – Temple 17. (25,908) & [1.3] & (1,561,517) & [1,961,831)
  • San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, ESPN: Boise State 55 – Northern Illinois 7. (21,501) & [0.9] & (1,070,509) & [1,381,967]
  • GoDaddy Bowl, ESPN: Georgia Southern 58 – Bowling Green 27. (28,656) & [1.5] & (1,721,785) & [2,335,378]
  • Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, ESPN: Western Michigan 45 – Middle Tennessee 31. (13,123) & [1.4] & (1,609,813) & [2,141,367]
  • Hawaii Bowl, ESPN: San Diego State 42 – Cincinnati 7. (22,793) & [1.0] & (1,138,616) & [1,636,301]
  • St. Petersburg Bowl, ESPN: Marshall 15 – Connecticut 10. (14,652) & [1.7] & (1,916,081) & [2,400,490]
  • Hyundai Sun Bowl, CBS: Washington State 20 – Miami (Fla.) 14. (41,180) & [2.9] & (3,360,197) & [4,670,232]
  • Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, ESPN: Washington 44 – Southern Mississippi 31. (20,229) & [1.6] & (1,850,808) & [2,616,765]
  • New Era Pinstripe Bowl, ABC: Duke 44 – Indiana 41. (37,218) & [2.3] & (2,712,509) & [3,770,273]
  • Camping World Independence Bowl, ESPN: Virginia Tech 55 – Tulsa 52. (31,289) & [1.9] & (2,231,401) & [3,416,308]
  • Foster Farms Bowl, ESPN: Nebraska 37 – UCLA 29. (33,527) & [2.2] & (2,555,565) & [4,046,474]
  • Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, ESPN: Navy 44 – Pittsburgh 28. (36,352) & [1.5] & (1,710,432) & [2,182,479]
  • Quick Lane Bowl, ESPN2: Minnesota 21 – Central Michigan 14. (34,217) & [0.9] & (1,089,085) & [1,485,542]
  • Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, ESPN: California 55 – Air Force 36. (38,915) & [1.3] & (1,524,059) & [1,887,698]
  • Russell Athletic Bowl, ESPN: Baylor 49 – North Carolina 38. (40,418) & [2.6] & (3,067,279) & [4,201,698]
  • NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, American Sports Network/Campus Insiders: Nevada 28 – Colorado State 23. (20,425) & [N/A] & (N/A) & [N/A]
  • AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, ESPN: LSU 56 – Texas Tech 27. (71,307) & [3.0] & (3,537,750) & [4,957,938]
  • Birmingham Bowl, ESPN: Auburn 31 – Memphis 10. (59,430) & [1.6] & (1,866,772) & [2,412,186]
  • Belk Bowl, ESPN: Mississippi State 51 – North Carolina State 28. (46,423) & [2.2] & (2,602,945) & [3,500,922]
  • Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, ESPN: Louisville 27 – Texas A&M 21. (50,478) & [3.3] & (3,806,163) & [5,423,000]
  • National Funding Holiday Bowl, ESPN: Wisconsin 23 – Southern California 21. (48,329) & [2.7] & (3,175,239) & [4,248,841]
  • Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, ESPN: Houston 38 – Florida State 24. (71,007) & [3.7] & (4,263,912) & [5,604,038]
  • CFP Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl, ESPN: Clemson 37 – Oklahoma 17. (67,615) & [9.1] & (10,536,161) & [15,639,802]
  • CFP Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, ESPN: Alabama 38 – Michigan State 0. (82,812) & [9.6] & (11,173,277) & [18,551,575]
  • Outback Bowl, ESPN2: Tennessee 45 – Northwestern 6. (53,202) & [1.7] & (1,959,225) & [2,821,488]
  • Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, ABC: Michigan 41 – Florida 7. (63,113) & [5.1] & (5,959,683) & [8,760,658]
  • BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl, ESPN: Ohio State 44 – Notre Dame 28. (71,123) & [5.6] & (6,471,541) & [9,759,096]
  • Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, ESPN: Stanford 45 – Iowa 16. (94,268) & [7.4] & (8,609,987) & [13,552,310]
  • Allstate Sugar Bowl, ESPN: Mississippi 48 – Oklahoma State 20. (72,117) & [5.1] & (5,923,564) & [8,939,523]
  • TaxSlayer Bowl, ESPN: Georgia 24 – Penn State 17. (58,212) & [3.7] & (4,348,594) & [5,872,211]
  • AutoZone Liberty Bowl, ESPN: Arkansas 45 – Kansas State 23. (61,136) & [4.4] & (5,146,827) & [7,048,702]
  • Valero Alamo Bowl, ESPN: TCU 47 – Oregon 41. (64,569) & [4.4] & (5,112,035) & [7,414,406]
  • Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, ESPN: West Virginia 43 – Arizona State 42. (39,321) & [2.3] & (2,720,384) & [3,698,671]
  • CFP National Championship, ESPN: Alabama 45 – Clemson 40. (75,765) & [14.7] & (17,467,148) & [26,182,357]

The NFF would like to thank the following people for providing information for this release, including NFF Correspondent Bo Carter, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl’s Matt Garvey, the College Football Playoff’s Gina Lehe, ESPN’s Eric Loh, the NCAA’s Christopher Radford and the FBA’s Wright Waters.

*The NCAA began keeping national home football attendance in 1948 (including non-NCAA teams) and started keeping NCAA-only teams in 1978.


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