2015 was the 5th highest average attendance in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium history for Louisville Football game at 49,068.8 people in the stands per game. With just 6 home games the season wide number is down compared to seasons with 7 home games (in 2008 the Cards had 8 at home pre-expansion).
What is most interesting is comparing Year 1 & Year 2 of Charlie Strong & Bobby Petrino: We see the same trend. 2014, Petrino’s first season back at UofL was Louisville’s highest average attendance EVER (52,971.5) and in 2015 the Cards saw a 3902.7 drop in average attendance (49,068.8) as the Cards had a difficult start to the season starting 0-3. From 2010 to 2011 with Louisville struggling early in 2011 from Year 1 to Year 2 of Charlie Strong the Cards went from a then all-time average high in 2010 of 50,648.1 to 48,537.5 a loss of 2110.6 off the average. However the period of 2012-2014 saw steady increases in average attendance and despite the recent slide in 2015 they didn’t dip below the 2011 level.
Year 2 of the ACC saw a pretty limited schedule in terms of ‘fan appeal’ compared to 2014. Year 1 of the ACC the Cards opened the season with Miami and hosted Florida State and Kentucky. In 2015 the Cards hosted Clemson and did host undefeated Houston, but the buzz on Houston now is much different than when they visited in the 2nd week of the season. Boston College, Syracuse, and Virginia didn’t inspire the natives quite like it would have during the C-USA, Big East, and AAC schedules. And it rained off & on throughout the Boston College game, the lowest attendance of 2015, whereas 2014 benefited from fabulous weather throughout. Lastly, UofL played 4 of its 6 games in 2015 in the noon TV window.
In 2016 the Cardinals schedule is LOADED Florida State, Duke, North Carolina State, and Kentucky are the highlights. The Cards also open with a low-profile opponent in Charlotte, but the opener is always well-attended despite the opponent. The Cards also host Wake Forest mid-November in a game that may be SUPER important despite the profile of the opponent. Still just 6 home games, but the Cards may be able to take a run at the all-time record.
With Louisville only having played two seasons EVER in the ACC, Louisville fans have a demonstrated appetite for football. With continued traditions, an increase in profile, and an annually enhanced schedule that appeals to fans, the expansion announced in August makes sense. Particularly when taking into account that Louisville has sold out each of its luxury boxes for the past two seasons, has a waiting list for both season tickets and club level seating. The University is most certainly doing the right thing by “Closing the Bowl” and allowing the football fanbase an avenue to expand.
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