Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (2024)

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (1)

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (2)

Isaiah Hole

August 7, 2022 10:29 am ET

“Football is a religion, and Saturday is the day of holy obligation,” famed former Michigan football broadcaster Bob Ufer once said.

That’s true particularly across the sport of college football, where the tradition and frenzy are taken up several, several notches above its professional NFL counterpart. But, not all programs are built like all others.

The Big Ten Conference is one of college football’s two premier conferences among the Power Five, and it boasts some of the top programs in the sport. From Michigan to Ohio State to Penn State to Wisconsin to Nebraska, the league oozes tradition, passion, brand recognition, all while embodying old-school, hard-nosed football. And with that, the Big Ten not only has some of the nation’s best fan bases, but it packs butts into seats unlike any other conference.

But, like we said, not all within the conference are created equal.

With that in mind, we rated each team in the Big Ten’s fan base according to loyalty, going from worst to first. We took into account attendance, overall fervor for the team, how many fans stay on the bandwagon when the going gets tough, and the general dispersal of fans across the country. Here’s how each Big Ten team stacks up against each other.


Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (3)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

We’re sorry to always put you last, Rutgers, but you generally don’t show out very well. And, even when you do, if things go south in a hurry, your stadium clears out rather fast.

SHI Stadium isn’t a guaranteed full-house, regardless, and when your program has resorted to selling season tickets at Costco for under three bills, it’s not exactly a vote of confidence. What’s more, Scarlet Knight fans don’t particularly travel well. That’s not to say it’s not a good fan base — it is — but compared to the rest of the conference, it’s not in the same league — except for maybe a handful of teams.


Northwestern Wildcats

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (4)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Northwestern fans are among the nicest you’ll ever meet, and if you’re a fan of another Big Ten team that has a large, rabid fan base, they will gladly cede their position inside Ryan Field, so you can come watch them play a game.

The Wildcats have a nice, congenial fan base, but even in the small stadium it calls home — the smallest in the conference — it doesn’t regularly sell out, and the fans don’t travel particularly well.


Maryland Terrapins

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (5)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The last time we saw Maryland fans really foaming at the mouth was in 2014, the year they joined the Big Ten. Since? It’s been kind of hit or miss.

That’s in large part due to team performance. The Terps have had some really great starts in recent memory. Then they get to that prove it game, and they tend to fall apart. Early high attendance gives way to lesser crowds, and from what we’ve seen, games against the big dawgs — Michigan, Ohio State — don’t sell out and have more road fans in attendance, much like the aforementioned others.


Indiana Hoosiers

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (6)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The Hoosiers have a beautiful, yet small, home stadium, and when IU is good, it fills out quite nicely. When it’s not, it’s a little wanting.

Like the other three fan bases we mentioned, Indiana has some of the nicest, most collegial fans in the game. The Hoosiers haven’t regularly been competitive, which makes it that much more disappointing that we didn’t get to see fans in the seats in 2020, when they actually contended for the top of the conference. It’s another school where rival fans tend to take up a lot of real estate, as well.

Again, great fan base, one that hasn’t had a lot going for it. But not in the upper tier.


Illinois Fighting Illini

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (7)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The one time we went to Illinois, the stadium was probably a little more than half-empty at kickoff, and it was filled to the brim with Michigan fans (the picture above was before fans were let in, for the record). While the Illini contingent in attendance was rather loud and enthusiastic, it was still wanting in terms of having quantity to go along with quality.

Illinois is another team that hasn’t really given fans much of an opportunity to cheer, but it does have many who are quite dedicated.


Purdue Boilermakers

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (8)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Sorry Indiana, but your in-state rival has a bit more fervor than you do for your Hoosiers.

Ross-Ade Stadium can (and does) get packed to the gills, but not quite as much as some of Purdue’s Big Ten counterparts. However, the Boilermakers have a fervent, enthusiastic fan base and one as friendly as you’ll find (unless you’re an IU fan). The team is a bit up and down, but Purdue fans remain quite consistent, which puts them in the middle of the pack.


Minnesota Golden Gophers

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (9)

Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Week-in, week-out, TCF Bank Stadium is packed with excited Gopher fans. Playing at Minnesota is tough if you’re a road team, but if you’re sitting in the stands as a rival fan, you’re probably not going to have a bad time, though being quite outnumbered.

Minnesota fans show out with regularity and support their team through thick-and-thin. Some years, that mantra pays off, but in others, the season doesn’t quite play out as fans hope.

Still, they don’t pack it in, and remain quite loyal to the Gophers.


Michigan State Spartans

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (10)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

There’s a loud, boisterous fan base in East Lansing — and if you’re a Michigan fan, one that’s downright hostile. Michigan State fans are intensely passionate about their Spartans, and their stadium isn’t particularly susceptible to being taken over by rivals coming to see their team on the road.

However, if there’s trouble or if there’s inclement weather, attendance will lag.

MSU is in the upper tier of the Big Ten, to be sure, but with the bulk of really passionate fan bases out there in the conference, it’s tough to put the Spartans ahead of the rest.


Iowa Hawkeyes

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (11)

Photo: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of the on-field product, Iowa is the definition of hit-or-miss. Any given year, it could be in the upper echelon of the conference, while the next, it could be near the bottom.

Still, Kinnick Stadium is always packed to the gills, and Hawkeye fans show out in force no matter where they’re playing. Last year’s Big Ten championship was a good example, considering they pulled about even with the Michigan Wolverines in terms of attendance. Plus, ‘the wave’ is one of the most heartwarming, best traditions in all of college football.

The only reason Iowa isn’t higher is because of those ahead of them. But Kinnick is one of the truly, most daunting places to play in the sport, and that’s due to a raucous, yet friendly, fan base.


Wisconsin Badgers

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (12)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Camp Randall Stadium is a bucket list destination for many, and it has less to do with the location in Madison, or the architecture, and more to do with its packed house jumping around.

Wisconsin fans are truly behind their team, rain or shine, hot or cold (physically and metaphorically) and it shows. They’re truly one of the best, most-respected fan bases in the country and it shows out every year.


Penn State Nittany Lions

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (13)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The ‘white-out’ is the best atmosphere in all of college football, it just is. And, when it comes to attendance, Penn State is literally second to just one, and there’s really nothing it can do about that. What’s most impressive is that PSU is located in the very middle of a sizable state, with State College being kind of far away from either of the two Pennsylvania city centers of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Yet, every game has 100,000-plus, even in years where the Nittany Lions are struggling.

Coming in fourth isn’t a knock on Penn State, more of an acknowledgment of the three ahead of it.


Michigan Wolverines

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (14)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to the biggest stadium in college football, and it’s almost always over capacity. With the largest living alumni base in the world, you’ll find eager Michigan fans everywhere you go. Even in bad years, the stadium always has more than 100,000 in it, and only one team manages to invade The Big House, making any dent in the maize and blue in the stands.

The Wolverines travel very well, taking over stadiums themselves. The only thing holding Michigan fans back is, as MGoBlog calls it, ‘the black pit of negative expectations.’ The stadium seldom clears out if the going gets rough, but the maize and blue faithful resort to a lot of complaints at the first sign of trouble. And it persists until Ohio State is vanquished.


Ohio State Buckeyes

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (15)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

There might not be a more loud, obnoxious, downright hostile fan base than that which resides in the state of Ohio. ‘Buckeye Nation’ doesn’t take losing very well, but it doesn’t take winning that much better, which benefits them, because they don’t lose very often.

On a weekly basis, Ohio Stadium is packed, echoing with ‘OH-IO’ chants that reverberate seemingly for centuries, even if it’s been just a few moments. Buckeyes fans travel exceedingly well, taking over just about every stadium the scarlet and gray play in, no matter how big or fervent the home team might be.

The state of Ohio has two NFL teams, but is galvanized solely by the one true football team — and religion — in the state, Ohio State University.

We mean this in the nicest way possible: the OSU fan base is pathological.


Nebraska Cornhuskers

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (16)

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Honestly, this one isn’t even close.

Nebraska has been, how do you say? — downright bad — for awhile. Yet, the nicest fans of any sport you will ever meet come in droves to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, boasting the nation’s longest sell-out streak. At the time of this writing, the Huskers have managed 379 consecutive sellouts in a stadium that boasts over 90,000 — even though Nebraska only intermittently gives the fans anything to cheer about.

That’s right, Nebraska has sold out every single game in its massive stadium in the past 49 years, dating to 1962.

Husker fans are devoted like none other, and they’re kind, to boot. There was no question here — even on this Michigan Wolverines site — that Nebraska would win the overall top spot of most loyal fans in the conference. And, let’s face it, it’s the most loyal in all of college football.

Ranking the most loyal fan bases in the Big Ten (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Carlyn Walter

Last Updated:

Views: 6048

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Carlyn Walter

Birthday: 1996-01-03

Address: Suite 452 40815 Denyse Extensions, Sengermouth, OR 42374

Phone: +8501809515404

Job: Manufacturing Technician

Hobby: Table tennis, Archery, Vacation, Metal detecting, Yo-yoing, Crocheting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Carlyn Walter, I am a lively, glamorous, healthy, clean, powerful, calm, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.