- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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We always say around here that spring games are overrated from an information-gathering standpoint. Still, you can't blame fans for wanting to see their team in action, and those whose schools have new coaches were especially curious to see what things were looking like this spring.
That's one reason it's no surprise that Ohio State and Penn State had two of the three largest spring game crowds in the nation this year, according to Sports Business Daily.
The Buckeyes led the country in spring game attendance, with 81,112 coming out to get a glimpse of the new Urban Meyer regime. No one should be surprised by the passion for the Scarlet and Grey; Ohio State claims the all-time spring game record, with more than 95,000 showing up for the 2009 event.
Defending national champion Alabama was second with 78,526, followed by Penn State at 60,000. The Nittany Lions got a large turnout for Bill O'Brien's Beaver Stadium debut and the first spring game without Joe Paterno in half a century.
Spring game attendance is often largely dependent on the weather, and it must be said that weather conditions were truly terrible throughout most of the Big Ten for spring games. Rain and chilly temperatures were the norm, holding down crowds at places like Michigan and Michigan State. Storms canceled the Nebraska spring game, which surely would have been packed since the Huskers drew more than 66,000 last year and better than 77,000 the previous two spring games. Indiana and Purdue both moved their events indoors and mostly kept fans away to escape lightning.
So the numbers were lower than they should have been, but here is how other Big Ten schools ranked nationally in spring game attendance:
17. Michigan: 25,000
20: Michigan State: 20,000
31: Iowa: 15,000
36: Wisconsin: 10,479
53. Minnesota: 3,500
55. Illinois: 3,000
Note: Northwestern did not report its attendance for the spring game.
You can tell from this 2011 chart that the numbers were down from their averages in a lot of places. Let's hope for better weather next spring.