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College football attendance, TV numbers remain strong

The next time come across someone touting the demise of college football's popularity, point them to a report released Tuesday by the National Football Foundation. 

A shade under 49 million people crossed the turnstiles at college football games last fall across the 644 football-playing schools in the NCAA, the third-highest total in the history of the sport. Additionally, 1.7 million people attended bowl games, and 18 bowls saw an increase from last year.

Fans that weren't attending games in person spent their Saturdays on the couch, as the NFF reports that the college football regular season attracted a total of 216 million viewers across 18 separate national networks. ESPN and its seven outlets drew a sum of 187 million viewers. The 35 bowl games, 33 of which were shown by ESPN and its family of networks, drew a total of 126 million viewers.

Much of the information is data we have covered previously in this space, but here are a few more nuggets dug up by the NFF:

- College football was the No. 1 or 2 highest-rated television programs for 14 consecutive Saturday nights this fall, taking the top spot on seven occasions. 

- Fox jumped into Saturday primetime college football scheduling last fall and saw an 11 percent increase over the comparable timeslot in 2011. The network saw ratings jumps of 30 percent or more among males 18-54.

- The Army-Navy game drew a 4.1 rating, its highest since 2009.

- ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 combined to show 306 regular season FBS games last fall. 

- The BCS National Championship drew 80,120 spectators, the largest crowd in the history of Sun Life Stadium.

- The Chick-fil-A Bowl was the highest-rated non-BCS bowl in ESPN history. It was also the bowl's 16th consecutive sellout. 

- In fact, ESPN's 28 non-BCS bowls saw a ratings jump of more than five percent over 2011. 

- The BBVA Compass Bowl and New Orleans Bowl each set attendance records this year. 

Read the full report here.

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