Weighing a 10 percent increase in turnout for University of Wisconsin home football games in 2016 compared to the previous season has to take into account some key factors.
For one, the Badgers didn’t play any home games while Madison was trying to clean up from a snowstorm like they did in 2015.
And there were high-profile games against top-10 foes Ohio State and Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium this season. In 2015, the highest-ranked home opponent was Northwestern.
UW reported an average paid attendance of 79,357 for its six home games in 2016. In reality, there were an average of 69,052 in attendance, based on counts of the number of tickets scanned when fans enter the stadium.
The scanning of bar codes on tickets, which started at Camp Randall in 2006, confirms their authenticity but also tracks the number of people in the stadium.
The 69,052 average was the team’s highest in at least five years and jumped 10 percent over 2015.
The last higher average was for five games in 2011, when the other two home games didn’t provide accurate totals because of scanner malfunctions.
In 2015, the Nov. 21 game against No. 20 Northwestern provided the only ranked opponent on the home schedule. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State weren’t on the schedule, and games against Nebraska and Minnesota were on the road.
That Northwestern game, meanwhile, kicked off after a winter storm that began the previous night had blanketed the area with snow. Only 51,205 tickets were scanned compared to the 75,276 figure that was officially listed as the attendance.
UW follows a common trend in athletics of using the number of tickets purchased or distributed as the announced attendance.
As poorly attended as the Northwestern game was last season, there was one worse: Only 48,289 showed up for a Halloween game against Rutgers in a light rain.
On average, 2015 had 15,505 no-shows per game. In 2016, that fell to 10,305.
Games against Ohio State and Nebraska this season attracted more than 73,000 and 72,000 fans in the seats, respectively.
The Nov. 26 regular- season finale against Minnesota, however, played two days after Thanksgiving, drew just 66,488 ticket scans. That was the second-lowest total in six games against the Gophers where data is available, ahead of 2008’s 65,992.
Even if a comparison to 2015 raises alarms because weather and quality of opposition made it an outlier, there’s this to say for 2016’s totals: The average number of ticket scans was nearly 2,000 more than the average of the first 10 years of data.