Attendance down slightly from 2011

Updated: February 11, 2013, 2:45 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

College football had its third highest attendance total ever in 2012, as 48.9 million tickets to FBS and FCS games were sold, according to numbers released by the NCAA.

The total was down from last season's all-time mark of 49.6 million people going through the turnstiles to see games in person.

Michigan bested its all-time record average fans-per-game mark, averaging 112,252 for its six home games this season.

Only three other schools drew more than 100,000 fans per game -- Ohio State (105,330), Alabama (101,723) and Texas (100,884).

The average college football game averaged 44,970 fans per game, down 528 fans per game from last season.

Two stadium renovations helped produce gaudy numbers for Cal and TCU this season. Cal led all FBS schools in attendance increase percentage, as nearly 18,000 more fans per game filled the stands compared to last season, when the renovation itself affected capacity.

That 48.4 percent rise was followed by TCU, whose attendance rose 36.7 percent this season. Other big jumps included UCLA (up 20.9 percent) and USC (up 17.5 percent).

Among the most notable declines in attendance was Tennessee, as another losing season resulted in the dismissal of head coach Derek Dooley.

An average of 89,965 fans per game showed up for Vols games this year, meaning that, on average, every game played in Neyland Stadium had 12,990 empty seats. Tennessee had a 4.9 percent decline on a fans-per-game basis.

Despite a respectable 8-4 season and Bill O'Brien being named the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year, Penn State suffered its fifth straight decline in attendance and its worst in the five-year fall.

Attendance was down 4.63 percent versus last year and the 96,730 fans per game was the school's worst average attendance since Beaver Stadium's capacity was bumped up to more than 107,000 in 2001.

Another noticeable decline was at Auburn, which also fired its head coach, Gene Chizik, after a 3-8 season and a winless record in the SEC. Auburn averaged 82,646 fans per game this season, down 3.7 percent as compared to last season.

The SEC had the highest per-game average attendance with 75,538. That was followed by the Big Ten (70,040), the Big 12 (59,004) and the Pac-12 (53,679).

The NCAA report said bowl game attendance was down 1,211 fans per game.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter