We are presenting a series ranking the “best” fan bases in college football. The study uses data from the past ten years and the rankings are based on Revenue Premium Brand Equity. For more information on the analysis/methodology, please click here.
For those of you following along with our conference by conference rankings of fan support, you may have noticed an omission. We skipped over the PAC 12 in our countdown to the top conference. But, before we talk about the SEC and the Overall Rankings next week, we did want to make some comments about the PAC 12.
Or maybe it is just one comment: We have trouble understanding this conference.
The method we use to rank fan base support uses something called a “revenue premium” model of brand equity. The big idea is that we look at fan support while controlling for team quality and market potential. Like any method, there is room to critique our approach. As an aside, we do enjoy the helpful comments provided to us via Twitter about our combined intelligence and lack of sports knowledge. As a second aside you should be aware that our sports pedigree includes Manish’s time playing Tecmo Super Bowl (Wayne Haddix rules!) back in Maryland, and Mike’s experience playing a great deal of Madden on the Sega back in the early 90s.
The trouble with the PAC 12 is that its premier teams tend to have revenues that are far lower than teams of similar quality in other BCS conferences. Oregon is the poster child for this issue. This article from Rachel Bachmann highlights the difficulty in evaluating Oregon relative to its peer schools. Over the last decade, the Ducks have been remarkably productive on the field, but the revenues are nowhere near that of the teams Oregon has been playing in BCS games. As Bachman points out, Oregon’s revenues would place it near the bottom of the Big Ten or the SEC.
The second issue with Oregon is its stadium, and perhaps it’s pricing. Oregon sells out (above capacity) regularly, but it plays in a ~50,000 seat stadium rather than a 90,000 or 100,000 seat stadium. The strong demand data suggests that Oregon could easily improve revenues through a price hike (as a third aside, there is a lot of chatter this summer about efforts to grow revenues through dynamic pricing). There are, of course, reasons not to raise prices. Oregon may feel like it is in the process of still growing a loyal following. They may be intentionally underpricing in order to invest in their future fan base. Or maybe Oregon is the rare school that does not view the football program as a pure revenue generator (they seem to have other sources of revenue ).
So rather than provide an explicit ranking of the PAC 12 schools’ fan bases we decided to list the schools in different tiers. As a fourth aside, we do realize this is a copout.
Tier 1: In tier one, we have the University of Washington, Arizona State University, Colorado and Utah*. These schools make the list for different reasons. Washington is the clear winner in terms of fan support relative to team performance, while Colorado and ASU have solid revenues given their on-field performance. We have an asterisk next to Utah because it is hard to predict how its fan support will translate to the BCS.
Tier 2: In the second tier, we have USC, Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona. The USC story has some similarity to the Oregon story. It’s a great program, but a program that often doesn’t sell out. As a fun fact, the West Coast USC actually generates slightly lower revenues than the East Coast USC.
Tier 3: In third tier we have Cal, Stanford and Washington State. Here, the biggest surprise to some may be Stanford, given its string of BCS bowl games, and fourth place ranking in the pre-season USA TODAY coaches poll. However, it is important to note two things: 1) Before Coach Harbaugh, Stanford was terrible, and the fan support was negligible, and 2) Although Stanford has been to three straight BCS bowls, the fan support has been trailing the rate of success. This is the first year where they have sold out their season tickets.
Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.