On Saturday, the college football bowl season kicked off with three offerings: the New Orleans Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Two of those three games were tight contests, getting the bowl season off to an entertaining start. At the same time, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington hosted the football state title games, with the Class 5A Division I, Class 5A Division II and Class 4A Division II championship games proving to be nearly as competitive as their bowl counterparts.
But here's what's impressive about the state title games: They actually outdrew their bowl counterparts, with the top-attended state title game outdrawing even the New Orleans Bowl, which featured a nearby Louisiana school -- Louisiana-Lafayette -- in a rare local bowl appearance.
As reported by the Dallas Morning News, the Texas Class 4A Div. II title game between Aledo (Texas) High and Manvell (Texas) High drew 43,369 high school football fans. That was better than the 42,841 fans who took in Louisiana-Lafayette's 32-30 victory against San Diego State in the New Orleans Superdome.
If those two games served as a matchup of the top-attended games from the two different levels, the disparity between the second-best attended games at both levels were even more stark "wins" for high school football. Some 42,822 fans watched Southlake (Texas) Carroll High top Fort Bend (Texas) Hightower High in the Class 5A Div. I championship game, a huge edge compared to the 28,076 fans at the Idaho Potato Bowl.
In fact, the only edge on the college bowl side of the equation came from a prospective comparison between the New Mexico Bowl -- which Temple won, 37-15, against Wyoming -- and the Class 5A Div. II state title game between Spring (Texas) Dekaney High and Cibolo (Texas) Steele High. The college game was watched in person by 25,762 fans while only 15,092 fans watched Dekaney edge Steele.
Of course, there were mitigating factors for that low attendance at the Cowboys Stadium nightcap: Dallas' manically-followed NFL team was playing a game at the same time, a game that was sure to draw plenty of local eyeballs to TV sets rather than butts to seats at a high school game.
Even with that diminished nightcap attendance, the high school games drew a combined 101,283 fans, compared with 96,679 fans for the season-ending college games. If you saw that coming 10 or 15 years ago, well, you're some soothsayer.
Does this mean that the Texas high school finals will continue to outdraw the rest of the college bowl slate? That seems unlikely. Still, it's a notable trend in attendance that needs to be mentioned and can only attest to one thing: They really do take their high school football incredibly seriously in the Lone Star State.