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A disturbing trend with the Nevada football team's home attendance

Mackay Stadium
Mackay Stadium. (KRNV file)

Earlier this week, I took a look at the Mountain West's overall football attendance, which hit a low in the conference's 21-year history. Seven of the MW's 12 team saw their attendance fall in 2019, and Nevada was among those schools. The Wolf Pack failed to draw 100,000 fans to Mackay Stadium for only the second time since 2006. Oddly, the only other time it happened in that period was 2011, the year after Nevada's historic 2010 season. That 2011 schedule was comically mishandled with the Wolf Pack opening the season with four straight road games, including three against Top 25/Power 5 opponents, which completely killed any community momentum from the season prior as Nevada began that year 1-3. But I digress to get back to the topic at hand, which is Nevada's overall attendance marks since 2000. Here's the list.

2019: 97,080

2018: 103,085

2017: 100,329

2016: 111,003

* Nevada completed a renovation between 2015 and 2016 and re-seated Mackay Stadium, which included price increases and had a big impact on attendance.

2015: 133,022

2014: 143,172

2013: 149,635

2012: 140,591

* From 2012-19, Nevada has announced tickets distributed. Prior to that, it announced actual attendance, so the 2000-11 and 2012-19 are not apple to apple comparisons.

2011: 93,652

2010: 137,032 (seven home games)

2009: 104,153

2008: 114,259

2007: 102,524

2006: 100,367

2005: 90,458

2004: 103,882

2003: 133,546

2002: 113,051

2001: 87,865 (only five home games)

2000: 85,086 (only five home games)

While per-game attendance marks give us more insight, total attendance is where it's at in terms of revenue creation and community interest. It's hard to compare these numbers because: (a) some seasons have more home games than others; (b) Nevada changed how it announced attendance between the 2011 and 2012 season; and (c) basically every game is on television or streaming now when that wasn't the case in the early 2000s. That has certainly suppressed the numbers.

But it's not a positive sign Nevada fell under 100,000 fans for just the second time in the last 14 seasons (and it was barely above that mark in 2017). With next season's home schedule including UC Davis, UTEP, Fresno State, San Diego State, Wyoming and Utah State, its unlikely Nevada pops back above the 100,000-fan mark since there's no UNLV, Boise State or Power 5 team on the schedule. One thing Nevada has lacked in recent seasons is a big draw game. It hasn't had a sellout (27,000 fans) since the renovation before the 2016 season. From 2012-15, Nevada had at least one game each season with 28,000-plus fans. From 2006-15 (a 10-year period), Nevada had at least one home game each season with 24,000-plus fans. But in the last four, the Wolf Pack hasn't hit that mark yet (its high in the Jay Norvell era is 21,431 fans against Boise State in 2018). The lack of one big draw game per season is pulling down the overall number.

I obviously don't have a fix for this, but the recent decline has to be a disturbing trend for Nevada, which drew 149,635 fans in 2013 and 143,172 in 2014. It's been a free-fall since then, with a 35.1 percent fall over the last six seasons (from 2013 to 2019).

We'll end with a fun fact: Nevada's school record for total home attendance in a season came in 1991, the Wolf Pack's last year in Division I-AA (now the FCS). Nevada drew 180,457 fans that season, although it came in nine home games rather than your customary six home games.

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