The best college football fans aren’t necessarily the ones who deck out their man caves (or woman caves, for all the ladies out there) full of memorabilia or stick those team flags in their car windows on game days. They’re the ones who tune in every Saturday. The ones who buy tickets and actually go to the games to cheer on their favorite squads in conferences like the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.
It’s no secret that it just means more in the SEC. SEC football is life for some people (correction, most people). It’s why every team not in the conference wants to join it (hello, Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns). ESPN knows it. CBS knows it. Everyone knows it.
The most loyal fan bases in college football reside in the conference that head coaches like Nick Saban, Bear Bryant, Steve Spurrier, Robert Neyland and Vince Dooley helped build. But who are the SEC’s best fan bases? Which football programs boast the biggest group of diehard, who-cares-if-we-lose-I’m-still-supporting-my-team fans in the country’s preeminent conference?
The SEC’s Most Loyal Fan Bases, Ranked
14. Vanderbilt Commodores
This is a list about loyal fan bases, so you sort of need an actual set of fans to be considered. I’m not sure that exists in Nashville. Maybe it’s because they’re too busy drinking on Broadway. Maybe it’s because the Vanderbilt Commodores play in a high school-like stadium. Or, maybe it’s because they’ve had just three winning seasons in the last 38 years.
Seriously though, if you’re still a diehard Vandy fan, you have got to be the most loyal college football fan out there.
13. Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky is a basketball school and it always will be. Mark Stoops has done a pretty good job of making Big Blue Nation at least consider caring about football. But let’s be real here, nine times out of 10 Wildcat fans are choosing to watch John Calipari‘s squad over the one on the gridiron. That ain’t too loyal if you ask me.
12. Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas has won just three conference games in the last three seasons (all of them coming in 2020). Can we really blame fans in Fayetteville jumping ship? Arkansas is now a baseball school after winning the SEC Tournament last year. Good luck finding a Razorbacks fan who still cares about the football team.
11. Ole Miss Rebels
Now for the run of the Mississippi and Missouri schools that will make you say, “Meh.” I was going to quote some attendance numbers from the NCAA, but the stadiums for these three teams just aren’t big enough to compare to the Alabamas and LSUs of the SEC. Maybe Lane Kiffin will have fans jumping aboard the “Lane Train,” though. At least Ole Miss fans have tailgating at The Grove to cling to.
10. Missouri Tigers
You know what? Screw it. I’m bringing out the numbers. In the most recent data reported by the NCAA in 2019, Mizzou averaged 54,160 people each home game. When you consider Memorial Stadium holds just 61,620 people, that’s honestly pretty decent.
9. Mississippi State Bulldogs
You’ve got to be pretty darn loyal to bring those annoying cowbells to Davis Wade Stadium. Plus, just listening to the clanging of tens of thousands of those things is absurd. Bulldog fans are definitely a loyal bunch, and even though this is a football-centric list, State fans showed up in droves to Omaha, Nebraska, when the baseball team won the College World Series in 2021. That was good enough proof for me.
8. South Carolina Gamecocks
The Gamecocks haven’t won an SEC title just yet, but their fans are definitely some of the most devoted in the conference. Here’s the evidence: they averaged 77,962 fans per game in 2019, which is close to selling out the 80,250-capacity Williams-Brice Stadium.
Plus, when South Carolina finished 3-9 and Steve Spurrier left in the middle of the season in 2015, the program was still averaging some 79,000 fans per game. Don’t sleep on the fans in Columbia.
7. Auburn Tigers
Auburn fans are so loyal that they will rush the field even if it means the school will have to pay a $250,000 fine (who cares if they beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl?). Plus, ever heard of rolling Toomer’s Corner? What other fan base has a tradition that fun? Auburn ranked 11th among all FBS schools in 2019 attendance, so it’s clear the Tiger fans are among the most invested.
6. Florida Gators
It doesn’t help that Dan Mullen has had to basically beg fans to come to games. Florida’s dedicated fans remained fans during the Jim McElwain era despite expecting Steve Spurrier-like results. Some still live in the past — they can’t stop talking about Tim Tebow and those 2006 and 2008 teams. Make no mistake, though. Gator fans bleed orange and blue.
5. Tennessee Volunteers
Good Ole Rocky Top, Woo! I only truly understood the Volunteer fans once I finally saw a football game at Neyland Stadium a few years back. They’ll sing that song in Knoxville until they’re red in the face and wear the hell out of that godforsaken orange. Tennessee hasn’t been relevant since Peyton Manning, but that hasn’t stopped one of the most loyal fan bases from showing up every Saturday.
4. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies have more traditions than SEC Championships, which is all you need to know about how much this fan base cares about their football team. Win or lose (and there’s been quite a bit of winning recently), TAMU fans — who ranked No. 4 in 2019 attendance — cheer on their team at Kyle Field. That’s why it’s called the home of the 12th man.
3. LSU Tigers
There’s only one true Death Valley, and it doesn’t belong to Dabo Swinney or Clemson. LSU fans are some of the best in the country. Easily. Just head to Tiger Stadium (or listen to the roaring of the crowd throughout Louisiana).
LSU ranked sixth among all FBS schools in 2019 attendance (during their national championship season), but even that doesn’t really tell the whole story. In one study, LSU was ranked the SEC’s “most-engaged fan base.” I don’t know how they determined that, but I believe it.
2. Georgia Bulldogs
If you’ve ever tailgated with a Georgia Bulldog fan, you know they mean business. I’ve done it numerous times at the Florida-Georgia game, AKA the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” and it always results in some sort of trash talk. Check out Mike “Big Dawg” Woods if you want to see what a real college football fan looks like.
Just last season the Dawgs boasted a streak of 52 consecutive sellouts, a number that only Nebraska and Oklahoma currently have more of. That’s elite. SEC fans in Athens are just waiting on Georgia to beat Alabama now.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Two words. Two words that you just can’t escape if you travel into Alabama. Tuscaloosa is home to the most loyal and passionate fans in maybe the world. It’s why they pack in Bryant-Denny Stadium like sardines — they ranked No. 5 in 2019 attendance (behind the Michigan Wolverines, Penn State Nittany Lions, Ohio State Buckeyes and the Aggies).
It’s where you’ll find dudes making Alexa say “Roll Tide!” after everything. It’s where you’ll find obsessed fans like Harvey Updyke, the man who poisoned Auburn’s famous Toomer’s Corner trees then told Paul Finebaum on air he had done it. Who else would commit a felony as a proclamation of their fandom? It’s clear Alabama has the best fans in the SEC.
Disagree with this list? Tell me why.