Decline in football crowds at Penn State slows

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In 2013, Penn State attracted 96,587 fans per game to Beaver Stadium — slightly less than it did the previous year but enough to keep it among the top five attended venues in the NCAA, according to data released Wednesday by the NCAA.

The slight decrease (from 96,730) is perhaps a sign that Penn State’s attendance has stabilized after a precipitous dip over the previous several years. According to Penn State, 16 of the top 25 best-attended teams suffered a decline in attendance in the fall of 2013. Of these 16 teams, Penn State’s decline was the lowest.

The only teams that averaged more fans for home games were, in order, Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama and Texas.

“Penn State fans continue to show why Beaver Stadium has one of the nation’s best atmospheres and greatest home-field advantages,” said athletic director Dave Joyner in a release.

Maintaining attendance has taken on added importance for Penn State lately. Last September, Joyner asked the university for a $30 million loan for the athletic department. Already, the athletic department has agreed to loans with the university to pay off a $60 million fine from the NCAA. Revenue from football is necessary for the athletic department to stay financially healthy.

The subtle decline in attendance comes after a steep tumble. From 2007 to 2012, Penn State’s attendance declined 11.2 percent. The average Division I-A program’s attendance declined 2.9 percent during that period.

At his inaugural news conference, new Penn State coach James Franklin said there would be 107,000 fans for every game. Certainly that goal will be difficult — especially for non-conference yawners like Massachusetts, Akron and Temple — but the athletic department has enacted changes it clearly hopes will result in increased attendance. Among these plans are variable ticket prices and a discounted season ticket plan for recent graduates.

Mark Dent:, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.

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