Thursday, November 22, 2007

Norfolk State football home attendance tops in MEAC

by beepbeep, MEAC/SWAC Sports Main Street

Norfolk State University is tops in HBCU football for accumulated home attendance in 2007. The Spartans are ranked #7 in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision ("FCS"), formerly called Division 1-AA, with 103,320 accumulated attendance for six home games. NSU average game attendance was 17,220.

Their home facility, William "Dick" Price Stadium has a seating capacity of 30,000 and was built in 1997. It is recognized as one of the largest sports and entertainment venues in the Hampton Roads region and one of the 10 largest Division I FCS football stadiums in terms of capacity. Dick Price Stadium is one of the best facilities in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) along with the football facilities at North Carolina A&T State University and South Carolina State University.

Norfolk State completed their first winning season at the Division I level in 2007, with an 8-3 (7-2 MEAC) record and finished tied with South Carolina State University for second place in the standings. The Spartans moved from the Division II, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1997 to the MEAC.

Last year, Norfolk State finished 8th in the conference with a 4-7 (1-7 MEAC) record and #23 in accumulated home attendance with 83,871 for seven home games. The average attendance in 2006 was 11,982 per game.

The Spartans increased their home attendance 5,238 fans per game from 2006 to 2007 and doubled its wins from 4 to 8. For NSU, a winning record translated into over an estimated $550,000 in additional revenue for home games. The Spartans also played their first Division I FBC game this season at Rutgers University (lost 59-0) and netted $275,000 for their athletic budget.

The university's president Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers would like to see NSU continue to play I-A opponents – Kentucky is on the football team’s schedule next fall – because she likes the experience it offers the students, the student-athletes and the financial gain it provides. The Kentucky game will net Norfolk State $275,000 for the athletic budget in 2008.

Dr. Meyers is passionate about both academics and college football. She served previously as Dean, College of Engineering, North Carolina A&T State University and earned her PhD from the School of Chemical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Both institutions have exceptional legacies in academics and championship football.

So, it's not difficult to see the vision Dr. Meyers has for Norfolk State University.

Norfolk State’s president, Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers eschews the president’s box at Dick Price Stadium for a seat in the stands near loyal Spartans fans.

Currently, Spartans Coach Pete Adrian is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of Year Award and his team just missed getting an at-large invitation to the FCS Division I Playoffs for the national championship.

Not bad for a coach in his third season at NSU who went 4-7, 4-7 and 8-3 for a 16-17 record. Adrian was signed to a two year contract extension in September 2007, by athletic director Marty L. Miller that will keep him the Spartans coach until 2010.

NSU second largest home crowd was against former CIAA Division II rival Virginia State University in the season opener. The Spartans won 33-7 with 26,970 fans that was the third largest crowd in Dick Price Stadium history. It was also the 20th ranked highest attended game in the FCS for 2007.

Marty Miller has stated, "we've been pleased with the progress that has been made in our football program, both athletically and academically."

"The football program is moving in the right direction and we are happy with the improvement in attendance and with the caliber of student athlete that Coach Adrian has recruited."

The success of Norfolk State University athletics was initiated under the superb leadership of Dr. Marie V. McDemmond. She stepped down as president on June 30, 2005 due to serious health issues after serving eight years as president of Virginia's largest historically Black university. In 1997, Dr. McDemmond became the first woman to lead NSU and the first African-American woman to serve as president of a four-year college in Virginia. She was instrumental in the hiring of Pete Adrian, who at the time was a top assistant coach at Bethune Cookman University.

Using her background in fiscal management, Dr. McDemmond laid the foundation for NSU successful Division I athletic programs.

Norfolk State head football Coach Pete Adrian has taken the Spartans to new heights in winning and consistent fan support.

What's more amazing is Norfolk State home football attendance out-performed long time established Division I programs at Jackson State, Grambling State University, James Madison, Montana State, Northern Iowa, North Carolina A&T, Tennessee State, McNeese State, Texas State, South Carolina State, Harvard and Florida A&M University, just to name a few.

A brief synopsis of the Spartans achievements can be summarized as follows:

Norfolk State University - Ranked #10 in the FCS in 2006 with seven home games, 83,871 accumulated attendance, with per game average of 11,982. The accumulated percent of stadium capacity was 39.94 percent.

In 2007, NSU is the highest ranking HBCU and is ranked at #7 in the FCS with 103,320 accumulated attendance, a 23.78 percent increase over the previous season. The per game average is 17,220, a 43.71 percent increase over the previous season or 5,238 more fans per game. The accumulated percent of stadium capacity was 62.17.

What a difference a 4-7 record (2006) makes compared to 8-3 in 2007 at NSU.

The NCAA accumulated attendance reports indicate that the SWAC and MEAC ranks at the top of Division I FCS football conferences in attendance. The SWAC had the highest accumulated attendance at 824,740 or 15,561 per game in 2006. This was a change in average of 5,034 fans.

The Southern conference held the #2 position last season.

The MEAC held the #3 ranking with 599,871 attendance, 11,997 average, with a change in average of 2,030. Overall, attendance is rising in the FCS with MEAC teams like Norfolk State, Winston Salem State University and N.C. A&T leading the way.

The Spartans are scheduled to play at Kentucky in 2008. They were beat 59-0 at #5 ranked Rutgers in 2007, but look forward to more games with 1-A BCS programs.

By comparison, Florida A&M University, which has been the premier brand in HBCU sports for half of a century, was ranked #22 in 2006 in the FCS with 63,663 accumulated attendance with four home games. The per game average was 15,916 with the accumulated percent of stadium capacity at 62.41 percent.

FAMU fell to #25 in the FCS with 60,773 accumulated attendance in four home games this past season. The per game average decreased to 15,193 per game and the accumulated percentage of stadium capacity fell to 59.58 percent for the four home games. The Rattlers lost approximately 723 fans per game average or 2.83 percent of accumulated percent of stadium capacity per game.

Not surprisingly, FAMU's new president Dr. James Ammons swiftly dumped head football coach Rubin Carter (16-17) and his entire staff, along with athletic director Nelson Townsend in order to move the Rattlers in a new direction. Like NSU, Ammons takes a bottom-line approach to athletics--making certain that the student in student-athlete comes first. And then, too, you have to win. It's no secret, the Spartans and Rattlers leaders are striving for the very highest success in both academics and athletic programs. And that's the way it should be at all HBCUs.

The upward trend in attendance were exhibited in both teams neutral site or Classic games. The Battle of the Bay Classic game, which is played between Norfolk State and Hampton University was the #62 highest attended game in last year. The game attendance was 18,157 at Hampton.

The Classic was the highest attended game played at Dick Price Stadium this season and was ranked #17 in the FCS with 27,756 fans in attendance. Fan participate increased 9,599 or a 59.9 percent uptick over the previous year game. This is the only classic game played by Norfolk State University.

FAMU played three "money games,"
i.e., Atlanta Classic, Circle City Classic and the Florida Classic. The football Rattlers and their famous Marching 100 Band usually attract over 197,000 fans to these three football games.

The Florida Classic, played between Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman University in Orlando, Florida each season has been the #1 ranked attended game in the FCS Division I for the past five years. This is a rivalry of major proportions with statewide bragging and recruit rights at stake.

Both institutions earns over $1.2 million each from this one game which is a tremendous help for each athletic department budget.

This year, the Florida Classic lost its #1 positioning in the FCS highest game attendance ranking as fan participation dipped from 71,216 to 65,367. This was a decrease of 5,849 ticket sales or an 8.22 percent decrease in overall attendance.

The Magic City Classic, played in Birmingham between Alabama A&M and Alabama State University now holds the distinction as the top attendance holder with 68,593 in attendance.

The Florida Classic is now ranked #2 and may slide further this weekend a the conclusion of the Bayou Classic in New Orleans with Grambling State University (8-2) and Southern University (7-3) of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

What we can conclude from this data is that winning in football and other major sports have a direct impact to high fan participation, corporate sponsorships, alumni donations, prestige, recognition, increased enrollment, expanded gift giving and growing endowments. College football is the major economic engine for both the institution, the local business community and the athletic department.

Five years ago, Florida A&M University and North Carolina A&T State University were the models of success in the MEAC and HBCU sports. No more--as that baton has been taken by Norfolk State both on the football field and in the spectator stands.

No doubt, Norfolk University is moving in a very positive direction--the right direction--and the NCAA attendance data and financial results shows that their strategic plans are working efficiently and effectively.

The Spartans athletic program provides an excellent model worthy of further study by other FCS programs that are not competitive financially nor athletically. Norfolk State athletics are clearly built on a solid foundation addressing all the needs of the university stakeholders and is a valuable asset to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

2007 Norfolk State University Spartans Legion Marching Band and Hot Ice Dancers -- Half-Time Show at North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, N.C.



-beepbeep

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