From Terry Bowden's column a few weeks ago:
June 26 – We can argue ad nauseum which conference has the best players, but when it comes to the biggest stadiums there isn’t much room for debate. The Big 10 wins hands down. Of the four college football stadiums that seat over 100,000 people, the B10 has three of them … Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State (Tennessee is also on the list). Now, it looks like Michigan is going to solidify its position as the “Biggest House” on the collegiate block with a planned renovation of $226 million to give them a capacity of over 108,000. I’m shocked that the Southeastern Conference is going to take this sitting down (or should I say standing up.).
Ahem. There is room for debate. There are more than 3 stadia in the Big 10. There are 11. And there are more stadia than just Tennessee's in the SEC.
The Big 10 has 3 stadia with capacity over 100,000 seats. The SEC has 1. OK. Point Big 10.
But the Big 10 has only 4 stadia with capacity over 80,000 seats (same number as the Big 12). The SEC has 7. Point SEC.
Add up all the capacities for each conference's stadia, and average them out:
SEC Stadia: 78,106 per
Big 10 Stadia: 76,295 per.
Hands down? Only if the question is "which conference has the most 100,000 seat stadia?". If "big" means anything else, the answer isn't the Big Ten.
For reference, here are the other conferences' capacities:
- SEC: 78,106 per
- Big 10: 76,295 per
- Pac 10: 64,517 per
- Big XII: 62,373 per
- ACC: 57,732 per
- Big East: 50,518 per
- Independent: 50,241 per
- C-USA: 49,712 per
- Mountain West: 46,958 per
- MAC: 32,393 per
- WAC: 31,708 per
- Sun Belt: 28,071 per
All numbers via World Stadiums.
Finally, as if this needed to be said... the size of the stadium isn't what matters. What matters is how many people actually attend the games. Rice has a 70,000 seat stadium that they're lucky to have 1/6th full. Same with plenty of others.
And in terms of attendance, the debate actually is "hands down". The SEC has led the nation in total attendance and percentage of capacity for [insert ridiculous number here] years in a row (26 years for total fans, 23 years - every one since it's been kept track of - for percentage of capacity). Last year, the SEC averaged about 6,000 more fans per contest than second place Big 10.
No matter how you look at it, the SEC has more conference members with a big stadium, and puts more fans in the seats than any other conference.
Having 3 100,000 seat stadiums is definitely respectable. Too bad it's not the Big 3 (or would that be the Big 2, since you always need to subtract one?).