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Think attendance will hurt USF's Big 12 bid? Think again

Bulls fans celebrate following USF's 21-13 victory against West Virginia at Raymond James Stadium in 2007.


Bulls fans celebrate following USF's 21-13 victory against West Virginia at Raymond James Stadium in 2007.



Though USF officials continue taking a covert approach in their pursuit of a Big 12 invitation, it's believed they'll point to the school's Big East heyday as evidence the Bulls are a viable expansion candidate.

Based on the attendance numbers alone, they have a point.

Over the last 11 years, dating to when USF began Big East play in 2005, USF has averaged 40,545 fans. The zenith during that stretch was reached in 2007, when the Bulls -- who would climb to No. 2 in the BCS standings -- averaged 53,170 fans for six home games.

By comparison, UCF has averaged 36,381 during that same span, with Cincinnati (30,288) and Houston (25,630) owning even smaller figures. BYU, widely mentioned as a leading contender to join the Big 12, averaged 61,024 over those 11 years.

Pulling down USF's average has been the last three seasons, when the Bulls -- 14-23 in that span -- have averaged fewer than 35,000 fans each of those years. But from 2007-12, the program's annual average attendance never fell below 40,000.

That stretch -- combined with USF's rising academic status, media-market size and fertile recruiting base -- is believed to be at the crux of USF's pitch to Big 12 administrators.

Bulls athletic director Mark Harlan will attend the American Athletic Conference's Summer Kickoff and Media Days in Newport, R.I., on Monday and Tuesday, though he's not likely to break his silence on the specifics of USF's pursuit.

Is history on their side?
A look at USF's overall average football attendance since 2005, compared to some other Big 12 expansion candidates (with best attendance year in parentheses)

BYU: 61,024 (64,497 in '07)
USF: 40,545 (53,170 in '07)
UCF: 36,381 (44,018 in '07)
Cincinnati: 30,288 (37,096 in '15)
Memphis: 29,769 (43,802 in '15)
Houston: 25,630 (33,980 in '15)
Colorado State: 23,053 (29,347 in '05)

[Last modified: Sunday, July 31, 2016 6:10pm]


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