Part of The Analyst’s FCS series called “By the Numbers,” which analyzes data to help tell the story of FCS college football.

When it comes to the FCS attendance elites, the usual suspects top the charts again this season.

Jackson State, benefiting from the aftereffects of the Coach Prime era, is still drawing extremely well at home even with Deion Sanders off to coach at Colorado. The Tigers top the FCS charts in average home attendance with more than 27,000 showing up per game this year.

Montana and Montana State come in No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, Southern University is No. 4, and defending national champion South Dakota State No. 5. The fact these schools are at the top of the list should not be surprising.

But what about the programs that surpass expectations? What about the programs that are packing the house – and then some with standing room only?

We looked at the FCS programs that are bursting at the seams – on average – with the regular season now in its second half.

The Breakdown

Attendance figures reflect games played through Oct. 14, according to

1. Merrimack

2023 Percent Capacity: 176.03

2023 Average Attendance: 6,161

Quick Hits: On Oct. 7, Merrimack College, a Northeast Conference school in North Andover, Massachusetts, shattered its home attendance record on Homecoming: The Warriors battled conference rival Stonehill, and a crowd of 13,647 showed up in a facility built for fewer than 4,000 fans.

Since Warriors football began as a Division III program in 1996, applications and attendance at the school have risen as well, hitting a peak in the past year when Merrimack reported 13,000 undergraduate applications, the highest in school history.

Not only is football attendance up at Duane Stadium – especially since the move to FCS/Division I in 2019 – there’s obviously excitement about the school. Playing fellow Boston-area schools such as Holy Cross and Harvard certainly doesn’t hurt in garnering attention, and scheduling a trip to an FBS program like Air Force next year underscores the growth.

2. Sacred Heart

2023 Percent Capacity: 161.33

2023 Average Attendance: 6,453

Quick Hits: Like Merrimack, Sacred Heart is a New England school in the NEC. The Pioneers drew 8,552 for the Merrimack game at Campus Stadium on Sept. 30, and home games against the Patriot League’s Lafayette and NEC’s Wagner also have been above capacity.

The Fairfield, Connecticut, school began football in 1991 and moved to the NEC in ’99. The Pioneers qualified for the FCS playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and ’14, and 2020 and ‘21.

3. Montana State

2023 Percent Capacity: 123.01

2023 Average Attendance: 21,867

Quick Hits: Why is this not surprising? Highly ranked Montana State is currently riding a 24-game home winning streak dating back to 2019. The Bobcats are 4-0 at home this year and have regular-season home games remaining against Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington – with more expected in the playoffs.

Bobcat Stadium’s reported crowd of 22,017 against Portland State on Sept. 30 is just a hair off the numbers from last year’s record crowd at the “Brawl of the Wild,” when MSU drew 22,047 against rival Montana.

Here are the top seven FCS schools in average home attendance through Oct. 14. (JSU Athletic Communications)

4. Kennesaw State

2023 Percent Capacity: 110.59

2023 Average Attendance: 9,179

Quick Hits: Kennesaw State, a Georgia school that will move to the FBS next year, set an attendance record earlier this season when it topped 10,000 fans on a season-opening Thursday night game at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. More than half of the crowd for the Tusculum matchup were students, and the early record was topped on Oct. 7 when Tennessee State came to town (10,436).

The Greater Atlanta school has been on a fast track since kicking off its program in 2015.

5. Rhode Island

2023 Percent Capacity: 106.35

2023 Average Attendance: 5,497

Quick Hits: Rhody is having a pretty decent season (4-3, but 4-2 versus the FCS), and the attendance numbers – particularly with the student body – have reflected it. While the Rams don’t draw like some of the top programs in the Coastal Athletic Association (formerly Colonial Athletic Association), enthusiasm is evident.

There are home games remaining at Meade Stadium against New Hampshire and North Carolina A&T.

The Big Boys

These 10 FCS programs have averaged more than 10,000 fans this year and achieved the highest percentage of capacity, according to

1. Montana State

2023 Percent Capacity: 123.01

2023 Average Attendance: 21,867

2. Montana

2023 Percent Capacity: 104.54

2023 Average Attendance: 25,217

3. Mississippi Valley State 

2023 Percent Capacity: 99.81

2023 Average Attendance: 10,480

4. UC Davis

2023 Percent Capacity: 99.06

2023 Average Attendance: 10,747

5. Mercer

2023 Percent Capacity: 98.76

2023 Average Attendance: 10.073

6. South Dakota State

2023 Percent Capacity: 95.89

2023 Average Attendance: 18,545

7. The Citadel

2023 Percent Capacity: 95.63

2023 Average Attendance: 10,998

8. Florida A&M

2023 Percent Capacity: 95.63

2023 Average Attendance: 18,406

9. Western Carolina

2023 Percent Capacity: 93.43

2023 Average Attendance: 12,884

10. New Hampshire

2023 Percent Capacity: 91.45

2023 Average Attendance: 10,073