UTEP football and top-10 are two phrases you usually don't see together in the same sentence. Whether it be recruiting classes, overall wins, bowl appearances, or anything else that involves picking the top-10 best anything among college football teams.
Facing 48 years and counting without a bowl win and eight straight losing seasons the 2014 UTEP football team somehow managed to finish among the top 10 of the Group of Five attendance leaders. Out of 60 schools that participated in either the American Athletic, Mid American, Conference USA, Mountain West or the Sun Belt, UTEP finished inside the top 10. We have yet to reach our full potential but once we do, we will be battling for the #1 spot.
Just two years ago half of the top 10 belonged to C-USA and we had no teams outside the top 40. Now due to some questionable replacements by C-USA bossman Britton Banoskwy, seven of our 14 schools are in the bottom 25. The overall average for a C-USA stadium on game day is 19,934. The top three teams that fill seats keep the conference respectable, without them it would look really ugly. Times have changed and getting twenty thousand for a G5 game is considered good I guess.
The newly formed American Athletic Conference leads the group of five in total attendance. Including incoming member Navy, the AAC averages 29,447 per game. They have five schools averaging over 30k and three more who in the recent past have reached over 30k in Houston, UConn, and Cincinnati. Mix that in with the minimum coaches salary of 1.1 million and you can bet the house once the AAC finishes developing they will be bordering the Power Five in a number of facets.
|1. East Carolina||44,786||AAC||8-5|
|2. Central Florida||37,812||AAC||9-4|
|3. Fresno St||34,876||MW||6-8|
|5. Boise St||32,504||MW||12-2|
|6. San Diego St||32,294||MW||7-6|
|7. South Florida||30,694||AAC||4-8|
|11. Air Force||28,161||MW||10-3|
|16. Colorado St||26,575||MW||10-3|
|17. UL Lafayette||25,775||Sun Belt||9-4|
|19. Arkansas St||24,861||Sun Belt||7-6|
|22. Appalachian St||23,166||Sun Belt||7-5|
|23. Southern Miss||22,739||C-USA||3-9|
|24. New Mexico||21,937||MW||4-8|
|27. Ga Southern||21,502||Sun Belt||9-3|
|28. Texas St||20,598||Sun Belt||7-5|
|30. Utah St||20,467||MW||10-4|
|32. Old Dominion||20,118||C-USA||6-6|
|33. La Tech||20,054||C-USA||9-5|
|37. North Texas||19,271||C-USA||4-8|
|39. La Monroe||18,108||Sun Belt||4-8|
|40. South Alabama||17,445||Sun Belt||6-7|
|41. Middle Tennessee||17,408||C-USA||6-6|
|42. Troy||16,767||Sun Belt||3-9|
|43. Western Kentucky||16,306||C-USA||8-5|
|43. Central Michigan||16,306||MAC||7-6|
|46. Miami (Ohio)||15,906||MAC||2-10|
|48. Western Michigan||15,625||MAC||8-5|
|49. Bowling Green||15,228||MAC||8-6|
|50. San Jose St||15,068||MW||3-9|
|51. Eastern Michigan||15,025||MAC||2-10|
|52. Georgia St||15,006||Sun Belt||1-11|
|53. Florida Atlantic||14,122||C-USA||3-9|
|54. Northern Illinois||13,563||MAC||11-3|
|55. Kent St||13,544||MAC||2-9|
|57. Idaho||12,886||Sun Belt||1-10|
|58. NMSU||12,269||Sun Belt||2-10|
|59. Florida International||11,966||C-USA||4-8|
|60. Ball St||9,289||MAC||5-7|
The Mountain West finished in second with an average of 24,855. Their top three teams of Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State along with only two low averaging teams helped them stay above C-USA and the Sun Belt. With nobody else in the conference labeled as a big draw the MW might find themselves permanently in second place.
One would have expected for the MAC and Sun Belt to fight to stay out of last but that was not the case. The MAC clearly takes over last place with only 14,984 fans per game.
We have the AAC in the top spot, #2 goes to the MW, the MAC takes #5 so who took the third spot? In a war that was a lot closer than it needed to be the Sun Belt's 18,943 falls just a bit short.
Fortunately, for the Sun Belt, Conference USA went after flashy market names instead of snatching the best available football teams. While we anxiously wait for the "great potential" that the big city schools have the Sun Belt is automatically capitalizing in seeing some of their weaker programs raided. They have supplemented their power teams(Arkansas State, Lafayette) with proven up and coming schools (Georgia Southern, Appalachian State)that might be small markets, but they sure do love their teams and fill up the stadium.
It all seems set in this new post BCS era in terms of attendance numbers. The AAC and the MW will always battle for the highest spot while C-USA and the Sun Belt combat for third place.