2014 College Basketball Fan Equity Rankings

As we publish our ranking of college basketball fan base support across the “power” conferences (AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Big East, SEC, & PAC 12), we can already hear the abuse we are about to take on Twitter and through the media.  Our rankings are based on a statistical analysis of self-reported revenue data.  We create a statistical model of revenue as a function of team quality (winning percentage, NCAA tournament qualification, etc…) and market potential (conference affiliation, median income, area population, number of students, etc…) and then compare the model’s prediction to the self-reported revenues.  Yes, we get that this self-reported revenue data can be a bit quirky, but it’s what the schools choose to report.

The key point in the analysis is that we are looking at support after controlling for team quality.  Some of our critics seem to think that selling out a 16,000 seat arena when your team regularly wins 30 plus games and makes deep tournament runs is amazing support.  Reality check: pretty much any major school would be able to sell out under these conditions.

Our overall top 15 schools are listed in the table below.  Louisville repeats last year’s 1st place finish.  The rest of the top five are Duke, Arizona, Texas and Xavier.  Other notables include Kentucky in 7th, North Carolina in 11th and Indiana in 12thWe fully realize that Kentucky fans will once again be incensed by these rankings. 

2014 CBB Fan Equity

Strictly speaking, the fan equity rankings are probably most appropriately done within each conference due to conference revenue sharing, but it seemed like more fun to do a simple list of the top schools.  At the other end of the spectrum, we have the bottom finishers in each conference (based on conference affiliation in 2013-2014).  In the ACC, the data says that the worst fan base is Boston College.  In the Big Ten, Iowa is in the cellar.  The last place fan base in the Big Twelve is Baylor.  Seton Hall just beats out DePaul for last place in the Big East.  Colorado is last in the Pac 12.  In a surprise, given their recent success, it appears that Florida basketball still ranks after football and spring football as sports that the Gator nation cares about.  And finally, at the bottom of the AAC we have the Cincinnati Bearcats.

For more on the concept of fan equity, please click here and here.  For our ranking of the “non-power” conferences, please click here.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

2014 College Basketball Fan Equity: Introduction and “Non-Power” Rankings

When we evaluate college sports fan bases, we find ourselves in an altered environment from the professional leagues.  There are differences in data availability (both good and bad) and differences in structure of the leagues that must be considered.

In the case of data, for example, we do not have sources for ticket prices, and team payroll is not relevant (as of now).  However, on the plus side, we have self-reported revenue for each sport (and yes, we know that schools employ different accounting rules).

The other major issue is that of league structure.  While Division I college basketball operates as a singular entity for the purposes of championships, revenue sharing for basketball and football occurs at the level of the conferences.  This makes it a bit tricky to compare schools across conferences since a bottom tier school in a power conference starts out with significant revenue, while a non-power conference school has to earn their own keep.  For example, if we don’t adjust for conference membership, Northwestern ranks as a top five fan equity team simply because their Big Ten shared revenues are by themselves a phenomenal haul for a team of Northwestern’s quality.

Because of this conference issue, we prefer to report our fan equity rankings at the conference level rather than a single ranking for all D-1 teams.  Today we begin with the “non-power” conference teams.  For the purposes of college basketball, we are identifying the “power” conferences as: AAC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, SEC, & PAC-12.  Our top ten teams are based on the last 3 years (for our statistical analysis we use all data since 2001 but for the rankings we use team results for the last 3 years).  The rankings reflect the conference the team played in during the 2013-2014 season.

The top ten “non-power” conferences rankings are given below.  The number 1 fan base was Dayton.  The Flyers were followed by Gonzaga and UNLV.

2014 Fan Equity Non Power

When we do these rankings we always have to make the point that our estimates of fan base quality are based on fan support AFTER controlling for team quality and market potential.  Therefore a team like Duquesne can still make the list because the fan support is very good despite the team struggling on the court.

At the other end of the scale, the bottom 10 teams in terms of fan equity are given below.  The team with the worst fan support in all of D-1 college basketball is UNC Greensboro.

2014 Worst Fan Equity Non Power

We can also evaluate which teams are trending upward and which are falling fast.  We do this by comparing the fan equity for the first three years of our data with the last 3 years.  This analysis is important because it speaks to which coaches and athletic directors have been the most successful.  At the “non-power” conference level, this list might be a good place for major schools to search for coaches and athletic directors.  Unlike  the traditional approach of just looking at winning or losing, this change metric speaks to the creation of “economic value” while controlling for factors such as team tradition, investment, capacity and other fixed factors for which sports executives should not get credit (or blame).

2014 Risers Non power

The biggest risers in the non-power conferences include Gonzaga, Kent State, Dayton, Northern Iowa and Nevada.

In terms of moving in the wrong direction, Montana & Florida A&M had the biggest drop in fan equity.

For more on the concept of fan equity, please click here and here.  In our next post, we will examine the fan equity rankings for the “power” conferences.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory 2014.    

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.

 

College Basketball Recruiting and the Best Fan Bases

For Big Ten rankings and a note on our methodology please click here.

For PAC-12 rankings please click here.

For ACC rankings please click here.

For Big 12 rankings please click here.

For SEC rankings please click here.

For Big East rankings please click here.

For the Best of the Rest click here.

While the college basketball season is far away, there are a number of interesting college basketball stories this summer.  Our plan for June is to focus on college basketball issues.  Our main focus will be on topics related to recruiting.

Our starting point, and the subject of today’s post, is a study of college basketball’s best fan bases.  We posted this originally as we launched the site (so very few folks have seen the results).  Fan bases relate to recruiting because they indicate enduring support from the fan base.  We will follow this analysis of fan base quality with more commentary related to the Ed O’Bannon case, and then data on which schools produce the most NBA players after adjusting for recruiting success.

For our College Basketball Fan Equity analysis we use a “Revenue Premium” method.  The intuition of this approach is that fan base quality is reflected in a school’s men’s basketball revenue relative to the team’s performance. To accomplish our analysis, we use a statistical model that predicts team revenues as a function of the team’s performance, as measured by winning rates and post season success.  The key insight is that when a team achieves revenues that greatly exceed what would be expected based on team performance, it is an indication of significant brand equity. The analysis therefore avoids bandwagon effects and gets at the core loyal fan bases.

 

The table provides the top ten overall schools.  Number one on the list also happens to be the most recent NCAA champion Louisville (note these ranking were computed prior to this past tournament).  Louisville scores so well because they have a great tradition, and play in a decent sized metropolitan area that does not have any pro teams.  The list does include many of the usual suspects such as Arizona, Duke and North Carolina.  How does this relate to recruiting?  Simple, strong fan bases equate to strong and high profile programs.  If an athlete wants exposure and opportunities to play on a big stage, then it makes sense to seek out a high brand equity program.  Of course, if the goal is to make it to the NBA, then this may or may not be the best strategy (we will get to this point as the NBA draft approaches).

One possible point of controversy is that Arkansas rates higher than Kentucky.  The key is that while both Arkansas and Kentucky receive outstanding support, Arkansas’ support occurs despite less on-court success.  The other possible interpretation is that Kentucky tends to underprice and may collect less revenues than possible.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013