Explained: How is the Big House's attendance calculated?

Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 20, 2008

Though they may not be able to count on seeing their team win the game, Michigan fans can rely on at least one thing when they visit the Big House: the announcement that the number of fans in attendance is the largest at any stadium in America. But that official count may not represent the actual number of fans in the stands.

That oddly precise number announced each game is calculated by adding the total number of tickets sold and the passes granted to the marching band and stadium workers. Because the stadium staff, players, coaches, journalists and band members are counted, attendance is usually higher than the official capacity of 106,201.

According to an Athletic Department staff member, there is no way to count how many people actually walk through the gate. The scanners at the gates are used to ensure tickets are valid while the turnstiles are for security purposes; neither tracks attendance.

Michigan Stadium has increased its capacity a number of times since 1927 to keep its title as the largest stadium in America. In 1998, the stadium was expanded to seat 107,501 fans when the University of Tennessee briefly exceeded Michigan’s numbers.

Though it usually has the largest capacity of any stadium in America, Michigan Stadium’s capacity currently stands at 106,201 seats due to construction, placing it behind Penn State’s Beaver Stadium. However, the Big House will regain its title in 2010, when completed construction will allow it to hold more than 108,000 fans.

The last time the stadium has seen fewer than 100,000 people present was in 1975. The Big House saw its biggest crowd on Nov. 25, 2003, when a total of 112,118 people were present for a game against Ohio State University.