The last football decade began with the 2001 season. Playing at the Florida Citrus Bowl, UCF averaged 19,763 fans that season. The football decade ended with the 2010 season. Playing its fourth year at Bright House Networks Stadium, UCF averaged 39,614. In case you needed some math assistance, the increase is just over 100 percent.

During that decade UCF had a lot going on in its football program. It had a coaching change. UCF switched conferences and then played for, and also won a conference championship. The decade also saw the school’s first bowl appearance and then its first bowl win. In addition, the school continued to see its enrollment skyrocket and become one of the country’s largest universities. And in 2007, the once-dreamed about on-campus stadium became a reality and attendance for UCF football had plenty of reasons to increase.

In that inaugural season of Bright House Networks Stadium, UCF averaged 44,018 fans per game. Texas, nationally ranked, opened the new football home and a guy named Kevin Smith ran for over 2,000 yards that season which saw a conference title game cap off the home schedule.

Over the next three seasons, UCF saw a slight drop in attendance for home game. They were not the only ones in college football. As the economy struggled across the country, college football attendance took a hit. Not at Florida, LSU, Alabama or most of the other traditional powers, but at places where they have not been playing the game for almost a century. But UCF’s decrease was similar, and in most cases smaller, than others. In 2007, Florida State averaged 80,597 per game. Last season the Seminoles attendance per home contest was 71,270. Not a bad number, but almost 10,000 less per game. Maryland is down 12,000 per game from 2007 to 2010. That school 70 miles west of UCF averaged 53,170 in 2007. This past season that same school was down over 12,000 per game from three years earlier.

In 2007 the average attendance at a Football Bowl Subdivision game (what you know as I-A) totaled 46,962. In 2010 the average crowd for a game was 46,632, down 330 fans from 2007. The number is a bit misleading. While the drop seems minimal, keep in mind that several top attended programs added seats. Alabama introduced 10,000 more seats at Bryant-Denny Stadium and Texas added over 17,000 seats to its home.

Critics of UCF like to jump on the attendance when it comes to “announced attendance” against “actual attendance.” Some argue that UCF may announce a crowd far less than the actual number inside the stadium. So does everyone else in college football. And like everyone else in 2001, UCF was just like other schools when the announced attendance per game was 19,793.

Announced attendance is based on tickets out and actual attendance would be those that actually came inside the stadium. I’m going to guess you likely knew that but just wanted to clear up any confusion.

One local newspaper seems to thrive on “announced attendance” and enjoys criticizing the slight drop in UCF’s per game turnout. I get it. It’s a little pet peeve they have. I do have a question for that paper though. Is “announced circulation” different from “actual circulation?” Are all those papers left in front of hotel room doors that never get read, is that like a ticket to football game never used? And while UCF does have some giveaways in regards to tickets for home games, I don’t think I can order a season ticket at 80 percent off its normal price, but I can get that newspaper delivered to my home for the entire week 80 percent off the normal price. But UCF is the one supposedly struggling?

Even if you think UCF’s “actual” turnout for a home football game is a few thousand below the “announced” number, it’s still significantly higher than the real crowd turnout in 2001. In fact, it’s still about double the number. Those fans have come from somewhere. That somewhere is from a pool that includes students, alums and area sports fans.

It’s not an excuse, but a fact. UCF is still younger than most programs who have played football at the highest level, but has come a long way in that short time. Do you know how many programs who average over 30,000 fans per game in 2010 doubled their attendance in the last decade? One, your UCF Knights.

Everyone wants every seat filled at Bright House Networks Stadium and winning helps that and the football team has done its part the last two seasons and should do the same in 2011. But what UCF has and has had in regards to attendance is nothing to be ashamed about. In fact, it’s everything to be proud about.

Knights notes and more: In case you are wondering about basketball attendance over the last decade. This past season UCF averaged 6,370 per game. The last season in the old UCF Arena, now known as The Venue, 2,706 was the average crowd. The first year in the new building saw an average crowd of 4,891. What was the average attendance for basketball in 2001 when the sports decade began? 908…Florida finished as runner-up at the College World Series as South Carolina captured a second straight national title. Of the eight teams in Omaha for the College World Series, seven hosted super regionals and seven also served as host of regionals (Texas A&M won a super regional at FSU but did host a regional. Cal won a super regional at home and won a regional on the road). This is the huge advantage Terry Rooney and college baseball fans know well. If you have to go on the road in the postseason it is very difficult to win.

Source: Marc Daniels’ From the Press Box runs several times per month on Listen to Marc during UCF football, men’s basketball and baseball radio broadcasts on the UCF Sports Network. Each weekday, Marc hosts The Beat of Sports on ESPN Radio 1080 in Orlando.