CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Anyone who watched North Carolina dominate Illinois on ESPN2 Saturday probably noticed one thing: a stunningly small crowd at Kenan Stadium.
The Tar Heels posted a 48-14 drubbing of the Illini, the largest margin of victory over a team from a top five conference since 2010. Carolina beat Virginia 44-10 Oct. 16, 2010.
Related News: UNC destroys Delaware 41-14 in 3rd straight win
The school announced an attendance of 41,000 Saturday but Kenan Stadium’s aluminum bleachers dominated wide shots on television.
Kenan can hold 62,980.
UNC spokesman Kevin Best said more than 26,000 season tickets have been sold for the 2015 season. That is down around 3,000 from 2014.
Best said the school has put initiatives in place to attract new ticket buyers.
A look back at attendance since coach Larry Fedora was hired before the 2012 season show a pattern of up and down attendance for the Heels.
The Illinois game drew a smaller crowd than the 44,000 that were in attendance to see the Heels dominate North Carolina A&T Sept. 12.
Fedora was asked about attendance during the Illinois post-game press conference.
“I know this, students do a great job, I’m proud of them and they always do. I just don’t have a whole lot of time to worry about other things,” he said.
According to attendance records from the previous games at Kenan, North Carolina had two sellouts in 2014.
No. 21 North Carolina sold out against San Diego State Sept. 6, 2014.
Kenan also was sold out against Virginia Tech Oct. 4.
That sellout was announced two days before kickoff.
An estimated 53,000 saw rival N.C. State manhandle the Heels, 35-7, to close out the 2014 regular season.
Kenan was packed with a sellout crowd Nov. 30, 2013 to witness an intense rivalry game between Duke and UNC.
In 2012, the Tar Heels beat the Wolfpack for the first time since 2006 in wild fashion front of a sold out Kenan.
The lack of big wins could play part in dwindling attendance.
The only ranked team Fedora’s Heels have beaten was the No. 25 Duke Blue Devils in 2014.
But a lack of marquee wins isn’t the only issue facing the program.
Fedora arrived in 2012 amid a massive cheating scandal that grew from the football program across the University.
After Fedora’s first season, Chapel Hill was rejoicing an 8-4 season that seemed to be the remedy the scandal-plagued program needed.
UNC lost to No. 6 South Carolina to start Fedora’s second season in Chapel Hill in 2013. Things didn’t get much better as the Heels dropped five of their first six games.
It took a 34-10 win in against Boston College in front of 43,000 in Chapel Hill for the Heels to snap their four-game losing streak.
Carolina was won six of its final seven to close out the 2013 season.
The Heels entered 2014 ranked No. 23 in the nation. After a 56-29 victory over Liberty in front of 51,000 in Kenan, the Heels moved up to No. 21 in the AP poll.
After the sellout against San Diego State, the ranked Heels faced in-state rival East Carolina.
ECU embarrassed the Heels in Greenville, 70-41. The Tar Heels would go on to lose six of their next 10.
The rest of 2015 doesn’t exactly set Carolina up for many huge games in Chapel Hill.
Wake Forest, Virginia, Duke and Miami are all scheduled to play the Heels in Kenan this season.
Miami has a chance to bring a big game atmosphere to Chapel Hill behind Hurricane quarterback Brad Kaaya.
And of course, whenever the Blue Devils and David Cutcliffe come to town, Tar Heel fans won’t miss a chance to see UNC top Duke.
Winning could be a sure-fire cure for Carolina’s attendance woes.
Fedora brought in defensive-guru Gene Chizik to fix the Heels’ 2014 defense that was historically terrible.
Rattling off wins against Delaware Sept. 26 and a win in Atlanta against Georgia Tech Oct. 3 could get more Tar Heel fans in the stadium.
But a few more loses and the schedule lines up almost perfectly for Tar Heels fans to put on that Tyler Hansbrough jersey for Late Night with Roy Oct. 23.
UNC football attendance under Fedora
Elon at North Carolina – 50,500
ECU at North Carolina – 59,000
Idaho at North Carolina – 32,000
Virginia Tech at North Carolina – 54,000
N.C. State at North Carolina – 62,000
Georgia Tech at North Carolina – 50,000
Maryland at North Carolina – 44,000
Middle Tennessee at North Carolina – 48,000
East Carolina at North Carolina – 60,000
No. 10 Miami at North Carolina – 56,000
Boston College at North Carolina – 43,000
Virginia at North Carolina – 50,000
Old Dominion at North Carolina – 41,500
No. 24 Duke at North Carolina – 62,000
Liberty at North Carolina No. 23 – 51,000
San Diego State at No. 21 North Carolina – 58,000
Virginia Tech at North Carolina – 60,000
Georgia Tech at North Carolina – 53,000
Pittsburgh at North Carolina – 53,000
N.C. State at North Carolina – 53,000
North Carolina A&T at North Carolina – 44,000
Illinois at North Carolina – 41,000
*Attendance numbers according to ESPN unless otherwise noted