Given the huge disparities in enrollment and scholarship numbers, it's often difficult to have a true 'apples-to-apples' comparison between Division I, Division II and Division III college athletic programs in the United States.

But Sports Illustrated and Money magazines have designed a new list they hope will judge big and small schools equally when it comes to fan experience.

In their list of '100 Best Colleges for Sports Lovers', the two publications looked at a number of different factors to try and determine which institutions do the best job of balancing affordability and academics with a number of sports specific criteria (like attendance, national championships, donations, and intramural opportunities).

It doesn't take long to realize that this list isn't like any other you've seen. Where else are you going to find a sports list with Division III schools like Middlebury College (VT) and Bowdoin College (ME) listed right there with Division I powerhouses like North Carolina and Florida?

And guess which other small school made the cut?

The Sioux Falls-based Division II school ranked as one of three schools tied for 91st overall on the list. The other two schools at 91? Division I Baylor and (ironically) Division III Augustana (Illinois).

To match Baylor, of the Big 12 Conference, is impressive, but even more eye-popping is the school that's just one spot ahead of Augie on the list - the Big Ten's University of Nebraska.

A further look inside the numbers reveals another big surprise. Augustana is 28th overall when all of the 'fan metrics' are taken into account.

One of the big contributing factors is attendance at Viking basketball games. Augie was second in the nation in Division II men's basketball attendance (2,726 per game) in 2016, and fourth in the nation in Division II women's basketball attendance (1,710 per game) in 2016.

So how does a school of Augie's size (enrollment 1,900) draw so well, especially among what SI calls their 'sports-crazy' student body?

The magazine has a theory:

With more than a fifth of the students involved in athletics, it's hard for an Augustana undergrad not to know someone on a team.

Top Ten Best Colleges for Sports Lovers

  1. Stanford
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Michigan
  4. Duke
  5. Virginia
  6. North Carolina
  7. Florida
  8. Middlebury College (VT)
  9. Yale
  10. Bowdoin College (ME)