Ohio University athletic director Jim Schaus and senior associate athletic director Michael Stephens thought that two teams actually experienced the thrill of victory last Saturday.

Western Michigan at Ohio University

NOON on SATURDAY in ATHENS

Favorite -- Ohio by 3 1⁄2
Records -- Western Michigan 2-3, 1-0 MAC West; Ohio 5-1, 2-0 MAC East
Last meeting -- Western Michigan won 42-21 last season in Kalamazoo, Mich. Western Michigan leads series 31-28-1.

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Ohio University athletic director Jim Schaus and senior associate athletic director Michael Stephens thought that two teams actually experienced the thrill of victory last Saturday.

The Bobcats took care of their end by defeating rival Miami University 34-3 in the annual Homecoming game.

The other team, led by Schaus and Stephens, helped attract 25,086 paying customers for the fifth-largest crowd in the history of Peden Stadium. The stadium seats approximately 24,000.

Ohio drew the fourth-largest crowd ever, 25,210, for a game against Marshall on Sept. 12, and 22,985 saw Southeastern Louisiana the following week.

Today's game against Western Michigan is a sellout.

"We've led the MAC in attendance the last three seasons and we expect that to be four years in a row," Schaus said. "We have a coach in Frank Solich who has built a successful program over 11 seasons. But I think we've also given our fans an entire experience, not just football. In 2013, CBS called us the best under-the-radar atmosphere in college football."

Ohio's season ticket base is more than 7,000 and growing. The student body has turned out in droves. Last week, it numbered 7,500.

The entertainment begins long before kickoff. A tailgate along the Hocking River features live music, giveaways, food and drink and games. The first 5,000 students at Bobcat Student Park get a free meal.

"What we've got is a family event with a lot of small-town charm," Schaus said.

The fun continues during games, with fans competing for prizes in wacky games on the field.

"And I have to talk about our Marching 110," Schaus said. "It's a performance band, and it is great."

The job of putting people into the seats is a year-round job for seven full-time employees, and 14 in all. One target is Columbus with its 25,000 alumni. There are 100,000 Ohio graduates in the state.

"I think people are comfortable bringing their families here," Stephens said. "Our fans behave themselves. We're affordable. An entire family can see a game for less than $100. We're always hearing from people who say, 'We had a lot of fun.' Our setting is one of a kind."

mznidar@dispatch.com

@markznidar