How Attendance at Rutgers’ Sporting Events Stacks Up Against Rest of Big Ten

As the Rutgers men’s basketball and football teams finished out seasons with just one conference win, a burning question is beginning to surround New Jersey’s State University.

Does Rutgers belong in the Big Ten?

Now, there are two separate trains of thought when breaking down this question.

The first is in defense of Rutgers, citing that the university has only been in the Big Ten for two years and that it’s going to take some time before the school will be able to compete with the upper echelon programs in the conference. In addition, some of Rutgers’ smaller sports, such as women’s soccer and wrestling, have been relatively successful since their transition to the more competitive conference.

On the other end of the discussion is those who don’t believe Rutgers will ever reach the competition level of the top programs in the Big Ten and therefore don’t belong in the conference.

Another interesting citation made from this standpoint—one that doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention—is the sparse crowds Rutgers’ top sports have drawn in the past two years isn’t representative of a Big Ten program.

So piggybacking off that point, how does the attendance at Rutgers football and men’s basketball home games actually stack up against the rest of the Big Ten?

Football: #8

 Now since stadiums vary in the number of people they hold, these rankings use the stadium’s percentage of capacity filled for all of its home games. Rutgers landed at No. 8 on the list sandwiched between Penn State and Iowa.

With a total capacity of 52,454 at High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers had an average of 44,846 at its seven home games, which was good for a 91 percent capacity mark. This was a notable decrease from Rutgers’ inaugural season in the Big Ten, when it had a 96.5 percent capacity for its six home games.

Also, last year Rutgers had three games in 2014 where the attendance was greater than the capacity, compared to just one—the 49-7 drubbing at the hands of then-No. 1 Ohio State— in 2015. The lowest attendance fell for a game was just under 45,000.

Even though attendance dropped from the prior season, Rutgers was still able to finish around the middle of the Big Ten in average attendance per capacity. Even further, Rutgers finished ahead of four teams that had a better record, including Iowa who finished at 12-2.

So even though a couple games had student sections that were nearly empty, Rutgers was still able to finish with a respectable attendance mark when considering its final record.

Complete Rankings (final season records in parenthesis):

1.Nebraska (6-7): 103.5%

2.Michigan (10-3): 102.4%

3.Ohio State (12-1): 102.2%

4.Michigan State (12-2): 99.5%

5.Minnesota (6-7): 99.1%

6.Wisconsin (10-3): 97.1%

7.Penn State (7-6): 93.6%

  1. Rutgers (4-8): 91%
  2. Iowa (12-2): 89.5%
  3. Indiana (6-7): 83.7%
  4. Maryland (3-9): 74.5 %
  5. Illinois (5-7): 70.3%

13.Northwestern (10-3): 67.7%

14.Purdue (2-10): 55.7%

Men’s Basketball: #13

 These rankings are based off the current 2015-16 season with games through Feb. 28. As with football stadiums, basketball stadiums are different in number of seats so the baseline here will be average percent capacity for home games through that cut-off date.

Through 16 home games the 6-23 Rutgers men’s basketball team has had an attendance average of 4,597 in the 8,000-seat Rutgers Athletic Center, which is good for just a 61.9 percent average capacity. That mark puts them at No. 13 in the Big Ten, in between Ohio State at 65.9 percent and Penn State at 44.7 percent.

The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions play in much larger arenas than the RAC—19,500 and 15,261—capacities respectively, but the Knights have still had a percent capacity that competes with both of those programs despite having much less success on the court.

Rutgers has yet to sell out the arena this season, with the highest attendance reaching 6,637 in a 73-67 loss to in-state foe Monmouth Dec. 20. Attendance reached over 6,000 just twice and over 5,000 a total of six times.

Last year Rutgers had an average of 5,700 fans, which was good for a 71.25 average percent capacity.

So as with football, attendance has dropped in the team’s second season in the conference. Without the allure of “first season in the Big Ten” being rolled out, crowds are aligning with the product that is put in front of them.

Complete Rankings (Records through Feb. 28 in parenthesis):

1-Tie. Michigan State (24-5): 100%

1-Tie. Wisconsin (18-10): 100%

  1. Maryland (23-6): 99.7%
  2. Indiana (23-6): 97.8%
  3. Purdue (22-7): 97.3%
  4. Iowa (20-7): 93.7%
  5. Michigan (20-9): 89%
  6. Northwestern (18-11): 84.6%
  7. Illinois (12-16): 74.3%
  8. Nebraska (14-15): 74.2%
  9. Minnesota (8-19): 66.1%
  10. Ohio State (18-11): 65.4%
  11. Rutgers (6-23): 61.9%
  12. Penn State (15-13): 44.70%


All attendance statistics were retrieved from the sites listed below: