Ever glanced at the sheer wall of bodies in an SEC football stadium and wonder how much bigger the surrounding town has gotten that particular Saturday?

There’s a huge variety among the 14 SEC campuses and the surrounding cities. Vanderbilt sits inside a sprawling metropolis. Still others — well, let’s just admit it — there are a few agricultural centers surrounding some of the conference’s proud programs.

So, how does the population of each SEC college town compare?


SEC City Population Size
1. Nashville 658,602
2. Lexington 310,797
3. Baton Rouge 228,895
4. Knoxville 184,281
5. Columbia (S.C.) 132,067
6. Gainesville 128,460
7. Athens 119,648
8. Columbia (Mo.) 116,906
9. College Station 103,483
10. Tuscaloosa 96,122
11. Fayetteville 80,621
12. Auburn 60,258
13. Starkville 24,886
14. Oxford 21,757

*According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates as of 2014, with the exception of Nashville (2013).

  • The largest population centers in the SEC — Nashville and Lexington — also represent the programs with the lowest average attendance at football games. Go figure.
  • The average home attendance for Ole Miss last season at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium was 61,547 — or nearly three times the population of Oxford.
  • Four SEC teams play in stadiums that regularly eclipse the population of the university’s town — Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
  • After the completion of a massive renovation project that didn’t quite reach a half-billion dollars in costs, Kyle Field now holds about 102,512 fans. That represents a slight reduction from last year and dips the stadium capacity back below the estimated population of College Station.
  • Nashville, the largest SEC city, is 30.3 times larger than Oxford, the SEC’s smallest city.
  • The media population in the SEC lands between Athens and Columbia (Mo.). Incidentally, the Bulldogs clobbered the Tigers, 34-0, at Faurot Field in 2014, but Mizzou claimed a second consecutive SEC East title.
  • Baton Rouge — home to the infamous Death Valley — represents the largest SEC city in which the football team made a bowl game last season. No wonder the crowds are so rowdy. (That, and a more relaxed liquor culture.)
  • Just for fun, Birmingham, the site of the SEC headquarters, contained an estimated population of 212,247 as of 2014. That would rank fourth in the conference if it included a university, just behind Baton Rouge.
  • Atlanta, the site of the SEC championship game, boasts of an estimated population of 456,002. I bet some of you didn’t figure it was so much smaller than Nashville.