One Metropolitan Area Has 1+ Million People, No NCAA Division I Sports

Although the largest communities in the United States are home to teams that compete in MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL, there are plenty of places that are pretty sizable in their own rights with no major league teams to cheer on. Not counting Riverside, Calif. (population 4.5 million), since it’s part of Los Angeles’ combined statistical area, the largest metropolitan area without a major league team is Austin, Texas. However, this community of 2.1 million is home to the University of Texas Longhorns, and crowds often exceeding 100,000 attend that school’s football games.

In fact, each of the country’s top 50 metropolitan areas, including Riverside, is home to at least one college that sponsors NCAA Division I sports, providing residents there with big-time sports teams to cheer on. And a considerable number of places outside of the top 50 are home to Division I sports as well.

But there is one metropolitan area that is home to more than a million people but has no major league sports teams in the professional leagues or at the college level to support: Grand Rapids, Mich., the 52nd-largest market with a population of 1.0 million. Most living here travel to Detroit for major league sports or to Ann Arbor or East Lansing for college sports. All three of those journeys exceed an hour. But the community supports minor league sports teams in baseball and hockey at high levels and in soccer and basketball somewhat less so but still impressively.

Rochester, N.Y., which is the 51st-largest metropolitan area at 1.1 million just barely missed this list. No major league teams call the area home, and none of the colleges there offer a full allotment of Division I sports teams. However, the Rochester Institute of Technology sponsors Division I squads in men’s and women’s ice hockey despite RIT’s other 22 teams competing at the Division III level.