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College football: It's big

This might not surprise you: You like college football. You and a lot of other people.

The National Football Foundations released some numbers this week, crowing about the sport's popularity. This portion cuts to the chase:

For the fourth time in five years, college football set a record for the number of people attending games at the 639 NCAA schools with 49,670,895 fans turning out to watch an NCAA football game this past season. The total figure represents an increase of 1,386,222 (or nearly 3%) from last year and an increase of 26% or more than 12.8 million fans since 1997.

The 35 bowl games this season attracted 1,813,215 spectators to the stands, eclipsing the 1.8 million mark for the first time in history. The previous bowl game record stood 1,773,882, which was set during the 2008-09 bowl season. This year's new mark represents a 0.8% increase for the games played in the same venues as the previous year, and the two new bowl games, the New Era Pinstripe and the TicketyCity, each launched with a crowd in the top 15 for bowls making their debuts. College football bowl games across all networks remained robust, attracting 134 million viewers (71 million households) to television screens to watch the 35 games and complimenting the more than 200 million fans who tuned into the regular season.

What do college football fans look like?

Ranked among the top most popular sports in the United States along with the National Football League and Major League Baseball, NCAA Football counts 103 million adults as fans* or 44 percent of all US adults. Among adult college football fans, 61 percent are male and 39 percent female. Twelve percent are between the ages 18-24, 18 percent are 25-34, 19 percent are 35-44, 20 percent are 45-54, 16 percent are 55-64 and 16 percent are age 65 or over. Sixty-one percent have an annual household income of $50,000 or more, with 42 percent at $75,000 or more, and 25 percent at $100,000 or more. Thirty-two percent are college graduates and 61 percent are married, according to Scarborough Sports Marketing.

Some notes of Pac-12 interest:

  • ESPN's Labor Day prime-time telecast of the Boise State-Virginia Tech game attracted 9,888,000 viewers, ranking it as the second most-viewed regular college football game among total viewers and only trailing the Southern California-Ohio State game in 2009, which averaged 10,586,000 viewers.

  • VERSUS drew an all-time record for a college football game with the November 13 game between Oregon and California averaging 1.9 million and a peak of 3 million viewers.

  • The Tostitos BCS National Championship Game drew 78,603 to University of Phoenix Stadium, the biggest crowd in the history of the building, which has also hosted a Super Bowl.

  • ESPN's coverage of the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game attracted the largest audience in cable TV history with 27.3 million viewers, blowing away the previous mark of 21.8 million notched by the 2009 Monday Night Football game between Green Bay and Minnesota.

  • The title game attracted a 67.0 rating in Birmingham, Ala., and a 37.5 rating in Portland, Ore., the home markets of the competing teams, and a 28.8 rating in Nashville, Tenn., a 28.6 rating in New Orleans, La., and a 27.7 rating in Knoxville, Tenn.

  • The Discover Orange Bowl, featuring Stanford and Virginia Tech, earned a 7.8 HH coverage rating with 10,682,000 viewers, the fourth highest for college football in ESPN history.