Are You In?

From the opening kickoff during the waning days of August to the last drop of celebratory confetti at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, the turnstiles were spinning in college football stadiums across the country (and abroad) last season.

According to a recent study by the National Football Foundation (NFF), approximately 49 million fans–49,315,857, to be exact–went to a college football game, either at a school’s home stadium, at a neutral site or in the postseason, during the 2016 season. Those lofty numbers, comprising the 668 NCAA programs across the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Division II and Division III, reflect an increase of 257,891 total fans over the 2015 season.

And lest you think college football’s immense popularity is limited just to the United States, consider this: a total of 101,809 fans combined attended games played in Australia (California vs. Hawaii in Sydney to officially kick off the FBS schedule on August 26) and Ireland (Boston College vs. Georgia Tech in Dublin on September 3) at the beginning of the 2016 season.

That’s not to mention the millions of people who were watching games via the various television networks, online or through other streaming devices, logging billions of minutes viewing their favorite sport. The record-setting season culminated in yet another thrilling College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship game between Clemson and Alabama in Tampa on January 9, delivering a total live audience across ESPN’s multi-network MegaCast (TV feeds and streaming) of 26,029,000 viewers and making it the most-watched event carried on a cable network since the 2016 CFP National Championship between the same two teams.

Thanks to the extensive research done by the NFF, resulting in pages and pages of highlights from the 2016 college football season, we have the statistics to prove that passion for the sport is on the rise … and in record-breaking numbers.

That enthusiasm once again was on prominent display in Atlanta on April 12, when the Atlanta Football Host Committee teamed up with CFP executives at a news conference to announce the fan events surrounding the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship. From a building overlooking the gleaming, new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the state-of-the-art venue where the next national champion will be crowned on January 8, 2018, the press conference participants lauded Atlanta’s attributes as host city of college football’s biggest game.

From Championship Tailgate Plaza (International Plaza), to Playoff Fan Central (Georgia World Congress Center), AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! (Centennial Park), Media Day (Phillips Arena), Extra Yard 5K (downtown), Taste of the Championship (Georgia Aquarium) and Extra Yard Teachers Lounge (GWCC)–and even the national championship game itself–each fan-friendly event is based inside a compact and walkable footprint in the heart of downtown Atlanta. This concentrated area outside the stadium, in fact, was one of the contributing factors that led to the city being selected as host site.

While the journey to the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship is long–winding its way through stadiums across the country amidst the exhilarating rigors of the regular season, conference championships and semifinal playoff games–the trek to the title game and all its fun-filled events just got a whole lot closer for passionate college football fans this season.

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