There was plenty of hype about a huge expected crowd at Texas Stadium for last weekend's high school state title games. In the end, the Class 5A Division I title game between Euless (Texas) Trinity High and Pearland (Texas) High didn't quite hit the state's previous record turn out, but it got awfully close. Perhaps more impressively, the game has managed to outdraw each college bowl game played so far this holiday season.
According to the Dallas Morning News, some 43,321 witnessed Pearland's memorable upset of national title contender Trinity in person, a number which University Interscholastic League officials credited to hosting all of the state's different title games at a single site.
While a pair of state titles were handed out on Friday night, the three biggest classifications all decided their state champions on Saturday at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, which filled its lower bowl and forced some fans who only arrived for the Trinity-Pearland showdown to wait for extended periods to get a seat below the upper bowl.
"It's been incredible. You get the championship atmosphere," UIL athletic director Cliff Odenwald told the Dallas Morning News. "We consider it a major success. We think the attendance number is great for the first year, and we think this has a chance to grow."
Compare that 43,000-person attendance with the tickets sold for first three college bowls of the season, and the Texas high school showcase comes out on top in each case. In fact, it was well toward twice the 25,449 fans who took in the Humanitarian Bowl in chilly Idaho.
In fact, the Texas high school championships' showcase game was attended by more than 10,000 additional fans than the season's most-highly attended college bowl so far, the New Mexico Bowl (32,424 fans).
Without doubt, the single-site format for the games was a huge boon for the UIL, as was the attention surrounding Trinity, which advanced to the title game on the back of three near-miraculous final-minute victories.
Still, it's hard to argue with the appeal of any high school event where there are so many fans that a sporadic wave gets carried across the lower and upper bowls of an NFL stadium.