North America’s Most Popular College Sports: Top NCAA Sports by Viewership

North America’s Most Popular College Sports: Top NCAA Sports by Viewership
Every university has an average of 20 athletic programs. Statistics reveal that across all sports programs, an estimated 480,000 athletes have the opportunity to hone their sporting skills in preparing for a professional career.
More than ever, college sports are showing they can host over 100,000 live viewers at an event, raising the bar on other adjunct sporting events. There is also a significant increase in TV viewership, more punters betting on NCAAF odds, and more.
This article looks at North America’s most popular college sports based on viewership.
1. Football
One crucial factor that makes college teams important in American or Canadian professional football is that there are no established feeder teams or competitions. Arguably, college football leagues often represent the professional sport’s second tier, coming directly behind the NFL and CFL in the US and Canada, respectively.
Professional teams often find their stars across college teams, scouting for highly-performing athletes across the school teams. In the US, the NFL puts forward a draft of the best collegiate players after three or four years of college sporting activities.
Regarding revenue, US college football grosses billions annually, making it one of the highest-grossing events in the country. Then you have other conferences like the Pac-12, Big Ten, and Big 12, each attracting billions in revenue. College football is a popular college sport in the US, with millions of fans watching games every year.
2. Basketball
Records from the National Sporting Goods Association rank basketball as the second most popular college sport in North America. March Madness is one of the most renowned events in America’s college athletics. According to a report by Statista, nearly half of the US population shows some form of interest in college basketball.
The Basketbowl between Michigan State and the University of Kentucky in December 2003 hosted a college record 78,129 spectators. At the time, the game had been the most watched basketball game ever. However, the 2010 NBA All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium in Texas broke the record with 108,713 spectators. But the Basketbowl maintains the record of the most attended college basketball games.
3. Baseball
Baseball isn’t only one of the most popular college sports in North America; it’s also one of the longest-running college sporting events. Since Massachusetts hosted the first intercollegiate game in 1859, the sport has grown into 300 NCAA Division I teams competing in the US.
Like the role of football and basketball concerning professional football, college baseball helps develop elite players for the MLB. However, college baseball has a more extensive minor league system, which reduces professional baseball’s dependence on the school teams.
Mississippi State’s college baseball holds the record for the largest attendance at a single game, 15,586 during a match against Notre Dame.
4. Soccer
Soccer is increasingly popular in North America and could soon overtake baseball in terms of stadium spectators. In the US, large stadiums in college soccer can register up to 7,500 attendees every match. The best athletes from college soccer teams get into the professional leagues during the college soccer ‘draft’.
5. Lacrosse
Intercollegiate lacrosse started in the US in 1877 during a match between New York University and Manhattan College. Lacrosse is the fifth sport on this list of most popular sports in the NCAA. The Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association (CUFLA) organizes lacrosse competitions in Canada.
The Maritime University Field Lacrosse League (MUFLL) organizes lacrosse events under the watch of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association), and the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).
However, spectators often draw in during the semi-final and final matches, especially in the premier division. For example, during a final between Yale and Duke in 2018, nearly 30,000 spectators attended the event. Yale turned out winners.
The sports above are the most viewed college sports based on stadium viewership in North America. With the increasing popularity of college athletic events, it’s nearly easy to assume that college sports are part of the most popular sports leagues globally. That said, other college sports also increasing in popularity are ice hockey and wrestling.