University Park, Pa. -- Penn State has claimed second place in Division I-A football attendance for the third consecutive season, with an average of more than 105,000 fans per game according to figures released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The Nittany Lions averaged 105,629 fans and drew a total of 739,403 fans for their seven home games to rank among the top four in home football attendance for the 13th consecutive year. The 739,403 patrons were the second-highest in school history.
Michigan (110,918) was the only school to top Penn State among the 617 NCAA members surveyed. Tennessee (105,038), Ohio State (104,870) and Georgia (92,058) rounded out the top five, followed by LSU, Florida, Auburn, Texas and Oklahoma.
Penn State's largest crowd of the 2003 season was 108,276 for Ohio State, the seventh-largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history.
Beaver Stadium, the nation's second largest facility with a capacity of 107,282, was expanded for the seventh time under Coach Joe Paterno before the 2001 season.
Penn State's five games away from Happy Valley drew 306,432 fans, swelling the Lions' total 2003 attendance to 1,045,835. Penn State has played in front of more than 1 million spectators in five of the past six seasons.
The Nittany Lions also finished second in NCAA attendance in 1994, 2001 and 2002, third in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 and fourth in 2000.
The Big Ten again claimed three of the top four spots in the survey and was second among all conferences with 5,264,8667 fans, posting a league-best average of 70,198 for 75 home dates. Big Ten members Wisconsin (15th, 78,486 average), Michigan State (20th, 72,830) and Iowa (22nd, 65,798) also made the top 25.
The Southeastern Conference led with a record 6,146,890 fans, an average of 74,059. The Big Ten was second, followed by the Big 12 (56,362), Atlantic Coast (51,938) and Pacific-10 (51,608) Conferences.
The NCAA's 617 programs surpassed the 46 million mark for the first time last season, drawing 46,144,539 fans for the four divisions. The nation's 117 Division I-A schools led the way, drawing a record 35,085,646 patrons for a record average of 44,447.
NCAA total attendance during the 2002 season was 44,556,125. Penn State broke the NCAA record for total season attendance in 2002, as 1,247,707 fans saw the Nittany Lions play during their 13-game schedule. Penn State played in front of 10 crowds of 100,000 or more.
The unparalleled interest in Penn State football triggered seven expansions and renovations of Beaver Stadium since Paterno became head coach in 1966. The most recent expansion added a deck and 4,000 club seats in the South end zone as well as an east side pavilion with 60 enclosed skyboxes, all of which have been leased. Approximately 67 percent of the club seats were leased on a seasonal basis for the 2003 season, providing the amenities of the Mount Nittany Lounge throughout gameday.
Club seats are available for the 2004 season, which will feature six home games. The Nittany Lions open the season vs. Akron (Sept. 4) and entertain UCF on Sept. 18. Penn State will host four Big Ten opponents this season: Purdue (Oct. 9), Iowa (Oct. 23 -- Homecoming), Northwestern (Nov. 6) and Michigan State (Nov. 20).
For information on club seating in Beaver Stadium, interested parties can call (800) 648-8269 (800-NITTANY) or (814) 863-3143 in the Centre Region and ask for Bob White.