Ranking the “Best” Fan Bases in College Football

Over the next week or so, we will be publishing analyses of the “best” fan bases in college football.  Our plan is to go conference by conference, and talk about which teams have the most loyal fans.  Our approach is data and statistically driven, as we will be looking at how fans support their teams after controlling for how well the team performs.  The series will conclude with an overall ranking of teams.

Before we get to the team rankings we wanted to start with an analysis of conferences.  Beyond regional pride, our conference rankings are related to the topic of conference realignment.  Conferences are the sum of their parts with some added bonus due to the synergies the overall group creates.  Our fan equity analyses therefore provide a means for anticipating how new or changed conferences will compare with each other.

For those that have previously seen our other brand equity analyses, we should note that our conference-level analysis takes a slightly different approach.  For the fan analyses, we build a statistical model that predicts team revenues as a function of metrics related to team performance such as winning percentage and bowl participation.  We then compare actual revenues to what is predicted based purely on team performance (and other factors such as number of students, capacity, etc…).  Click here for an explanation of why we use this “revenue premium” approach to brand equity measurement.

For the conference analysis, we take a similar, but more financially oriented approach.  This analysis also begins with a statistical model of team revenues, but now the explanatory variables primarily involve team expenditures.  Team-level brand equity is then taken as the difference between actual revenues and revenues predicted based on expenditures.  The logic of this approach is that teams with more powerful brands should be able to more efficiently increase revenues.  As an example, imagine a comparison between the University of Notre Dame and perhaps Rutgers.  If these teams spent the same amount in a given year, we would still expect Notre Dame to have significantly greater revenues simply because ND has such a large and loyal following.

We rely on this ROI (Return on Investment) oriented measure for the conference ranking because we have a significant interest in conference realignment.  In this era of realignment, it seems obvious that conference membership decisions are almost entirely driven by financial considerations. In other words, while we feel that fan support should be measured relative to team performance, when it comes to conferences we believe that schools should be evaluated based on ROI.

Finally on to the rankings…

In an altogether unsurprising result, the SEC is ranked number one, followed by the Big Ten in the second position.  The SEC ranking is notable in that while we all know that the SEC has dominated on the field; our results also suggest that the conference schools are extremely efficient in translating the intensity of fans into dollars.  On the realignment front, it seems certain that Missouri and Texas A&M were largely driven by the financial attractiveness of the conference.  It remains to be seen if these schools have traded cash for also-ran status.

In second place, we have the Big Ten Conference.  The Big Ten is in many ways a leader in the space, as they have been successful in creating a network that leverages the appeal of its members.  The Big Ten has also been notable in its efforts to attract teams that expand the conference’s access to media markets.

In a distant third place we have the Big 12.  The Big 12 is interesting in that it has, and had, several very well-known brands such as Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.  Of course, the Big 12 has also been the major conference that has seen the most attrition as Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas A&M have all moved to seemingly greener pastures.  Despite this attrition, the conference does well in our rankings, and out-performs two of the other Big 5 conferences.  The big question for the Big 12 is whether it will be sustainable in the long-term.  The Big 12 has two key weaknesses.  First, it’s unclear if it covers enough major markets to successfully develop a media strategy that will allow the conference schools to be competitive with other better-located conferences.  The second issue is that the Big 12 is very top heavy.  Texas is the obvious (financial) jewel of the league.  Will Texas share or will the Longhorns go their own way?

In fourth place, we have the PAC 12.  The PAC 12 is promising case in that it seems to be well positioned for the future.  In terms of teams, it contains both historical powers like USC and up and coming teams like Oregon.  The conference also covers major media markets, but its west coast time zone may be a limitation.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in our analysis was that the new American Athletic Conference (AAC) ranked higher than the ACC.  This is a non-intuitive finding as we expected that historically successful programs such as Florida State and Miami would lead the ACC past an AAC led by Louisville and Cincinnati.  The reason for this result is actually quite simple.  The ACC schools have invested in football at about the same level as the Big 12 and PAC 12 schools, but with lower resulting revenues.

NEXT: RANKING THE NON-BCS CONFERENCE SCHOOLS

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University, 2013.

Basketball Conference Realignment: Winners and Losers

College sports are changing rapidly.  From the soon to be instituted college football playoff to the potential changes the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit forces on schools, we are clearly in a time of change.  The subject of today’s post is another example of these changes, as our focus is on conference realignment.  The cynic, who in this case would be correct, would say that the realignment activity of the past few years has been driven by money.  It has been the quest for new television markets (Rutgers to the Big Ten) and powerful brands (Nebraska, also to the Big Ten) that has led some conferences to grow, and for many teams to make moves.

The topic of realignment is top of mind today because it is the first day of the American Athletic Conference.  This new AAC is largely comprised of refugees from the Big East and Conference USA.  Today’s analysis looks at how the shuffling across conferences has increased the overall brand equity of each league.  For this analysis we use the results of our previous college basketball brand equity analysis.  The one significant change is that for this analysis we do not separate out the conference effects when computing team-level brand equity.  Each league’s rank is then the sum of its teams. We perform the analysis for both 2012 and 2014.

The analysis yields some expected and surprising results.  The Big Ten leads the way both in 2012 and 2014, with the ACC following behind in both years.  However, while the Big Ten has a large lead in cumulative brand equity in 2012, the gap is almost negligible in 2014 (In terms of percentages the brand equity of the ACC basketball programs was 81.7% of the Big Ten’s in 2012, but with the changes scheduled to occur, the ACC will have 97.2% of the Big Ten’s equity in 2014).

Of course, the most interesting part of the table concerns the new Big East (Catholic 7) and the new American Athletic Conference.   The Big East drops from being the 3rd ranked conference to being the 6th best conference in 2014.  However, it should be noted that this drop is primarily due to the reduction in the league size. In terms of average equity the remaining Big East schools still have the 3rd highest average score.

For the new American Athletic Conference the story is not very hopeful.  The new American Athletic Conference is projected to rank 9th behind the power 5 conferences, the Big East, the Mountain West and the Atlantic Ten.  This was a somewhat surprising finding given that the American Athletic Conference will still contain schools like Cincinnati, Memphis, and UCONN.  But the numbers suggest that Dayton, UNLV and New Mexico have sufficient fan equity to move their leagues past the American Athletic Conference.

The other big story is the positions of the PAC 12 and the Big Twelve.  In 2012, the Big Twelve had a 22% advantage in terms of brand equity, but we forecast that in 2014 it will trail the PAC 12 by 7%.  These types of changes are important as there is a bit of a game that occurs within conferences.  Schools in weaker conferences are likely to have a greater incentive to jump to stronger leagues because they fear being left in a dying league without great options.  The Big Twelve has recently lost Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri.  If Texas were to leave, the conference would likely disintegrate.

We would also like to make a couple of notes regarding some assumptions implicit in the model.  Our use of revenue premium based brand equity as of 2012 means that each school’s brand equity can be viewed as partially a product of their affiliation in that year.  This is important if a league’s value is more than just the sum of its teams.  For example, the Big Ten pursued Rutgers largely to secure entry into the NY television market.  The logic behind this move would seem to be an assumption that competition with Big Ten teams will improve Rutgers’ attractiveness within the market.  Our analyses do not (as of now) include this type of potential synergy.  The new ACC has at least partially adopted a television based strategy as the members are widely distributed across the nation.  The hope has to be that this cross country coverage creates synergies that simultaneously create interest in the teams and the league.  However, given the current lack of brand equity and the aggressiveness of stronger leagues to form lucrative television networks, this will be a tough haul.

 

South Florida & Marquette Best at Converting Talent into NBA Draft Picks: Ranking the Big East

In our current series on college basketball programs’ abilities to transform their available high school talent into NBA draft picks, we have decided to start with summary data for each school.  We plan on concluding the series with a statistical model that predicts the likelihood of a player being drafted based on the player’s recruiting ranking, the school’s investment in the program, the rankings of the player’s teammates and other factors. We decided to start with the summary efficiency rankings simply because these rankings are more accessible to fans and tend to generate more conversation.

Our series continues with an examination of recruiting classes from 2002-2011 in the Big East.    The chart below lists our efficiency rankings for the Big East (for more details on our methodology, please click here).  The University of South Florida (USF) was the leader in the Big East in converting talent into NBA draft picks.  The Bulls were followed by Marquette and then Connecticut.

 

In the period of our study, USF had no 5-Star or 4-Star recruits at all.  However, 9.5% of 3-Star recruits at USF were drafted into the NBA (The overall national draft rate for 3-Star recruits during this period was 3%).

Marquette performed better than traditional Big East powers UConn, Syracuse, and Georgetown in the period of our study.  This is largely due to 13% of 3-Star recruits and 14% of non-ranked recruits from Marquette being drafted.  This is incredible considering that the national draft rate for 3-Star recruits was 3%, the rate for non-ranked recruits was 0.4%! While Georgetown and Syracuse were both slightly above average with respect to their 5-Star recruit drafting rates, they were both below the national average for being drafted with respect to their 4-Star recruits.  This is potentially problematic, as 4-Star recruits reflect a large portion of the recruiting classes for both schools.

PREVIOUS POST: RANKING THE SEC

NEXT POST: RANKING THE BEST OF THE REST

The Best Fan Bases in Big East

Our series on the Best Fan Bases in college basketball concludes looking at the BCS Conferences with an examination of the Big East Conference from 2001 to 2011.  The Louisville Cardinals are on top, followed by the Syracuse Orange and the Marquette Golden Eagles.  Seton Hall and DePaul are on the bottom of the rankings.  (Note: For additional information on our methodology, click here)

Louisville, Syracuse, and Marquette are the top three in the Big East, but also in our overall top ten.  These three schools all have excellent attendance and revenue per seat, regardless of team performance.

It’s worth pointing out a couple of the teams near the bottom of the rankings.  The Georgetown Hoyas finished 13th in the rankings, which may be surprising to college basketball fans.  While Georgetown has enjoyed some on-court success in the past decade, their home attendance has been unremarkable.  In the 2006-2007 season, Georgetown won 30 games and went to the Final Four.  However, their average home attendance was barely over 50% of capacity that season.  This may be partially explained by the Hoyas playing in an arena with capacity over 20,000, but having a relatively small student body.

DePaul finished last in our Big East fan rankings.  DePaul suffers from playing in a large arena (17,500) that is located far from campus.  Performance, attendance, and revenue per seat have all been atrocious for DePaul.

2013 NFL Draft Recap Part 7: Rutgers & UConn Beasts of the Big East!

The 2013 NFL Draft has concluded, and we would like to offer our thoughts on the ability of conferences and schools to turn high school talent into NFL Draft Picks.  We conclude our team-level discussion with an analysis of the Big East.

To reiterate from our previous post, this is only an analysis of the 2013 NFL Draft.  We are examining how many picks were produced by each school, relative to their recruiting classes over the relevant corresponding period for the 2013 Draft.  As with any analysis based on essentially a single data point it’s important to remember that these results are more anecdotal than conclusive.  That said, the 2013 draft does produce results that are largely consistent with our multiyear statistical study of recruit conversion.

(Please note that “Winners” are determined by the top quartile of scores, and “Losers” are the bottom quartile)

Winners: Connecticut and Rutgers are not only the big winners of the NFL Draft in the Big East, they were across the country two of the best schools for converting talent into 2013 NFL picks.  UConn produced five draft picks using talent that on average ranked outside of the top 75 during the relevant recruiting period. Rutgers had seven picks using talent that averaged just inside the top 50!  This could mean that the coaching staffs at Rutgers and UConn did a great job developing players and/or Edsall and Schiano had an eye for finding diamonds in the rough.

Middle of the Pack: In other conferences, Syracuse and USF could have been in the top quartile and thus “Winners”, because both schools produced three draft picks using talent on average outside the top 45.

Losers: Pittsburgh, Louisville and Temple all had no draft picks in the 2013 NFL draft.  Pittsburgh is the most disappointing of these schools, since they averaged talent inside the top 40 during the relevant recruiting period.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.