The Best of the Rest: College Basketball Fan Bases

For more on this study, click here.

They do play basketball outside of the big six BCS conferences.  Given the importance of the structure of the NCAA tournament the mid major schools often provide some of the most dramatic story lines each year.  In this post we want to highlight several non-BCS conference teams that have exceptional fan bases.

Number one on our list is the Dayton Flyers.  For the decade from 2001 to 2011, the Flyers averaged over 21 wins per season and made three NCAA tournaments.  And while this is a very respectable performance, the Dayton fans provided exceptional support.  Dayton plays in a large arena (13,435 seats) and on average over 92% of seats are filled (2005 to 2011).  The end result is that Dayton has averaged about three times as much revenue as the average D1 basketball program.  The second and third ranked programs were Xavier and Wichita State.  Xavier also produces about three times the revenue of the average D1 college by filling their 10,250 seat arena to almost 98% percent of capacity.

There are a number of other non-major conference programs that also come to mind such as Memphis, UNLV and Butler.  Butler is an interesting case given their high profile coach and tournament success.  However, in the last year available, Butler listed revenues that were still a bit less than the average D1 school.  If we look at the full ten year period Butler averaged 24.6 wins but in the last five years only filled about 55% of their available seats.  UNLV obviously has a great history but averages less than 12,000 fans (last ten years) in an 18 thousand plus arena.  Memphis is another great program.  But despite exceptional on-court performance (28 average wins from 2001 to 2011), Memphis only sold about 83% of available seats (this has increased to over 90% over the last several years).

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.

The Best Fan Bases in the Southeastern Conference (SEC)

Our series on the Best Fan Bases in college basketball continues with an examination of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).  The Arkansas Razorbacks are on top, followed by the Kentucky Wildcats and the Florida Gators.  LSU and South Carolina are on the bottom of the rankings.  (Note: For additional information on our methodology, click here)

One possible point of contention is that Arkansas rates higher than perennial power Kentucky.  The key to the separation between the two schools is that while both Arkansas and Kentucky receive outstanding support, Arkansas’ support occurs despite less on-court success (Kentucky averaged 9 more wins per year than Arkansas over the period of the study).  The other possible interpretation is that Kentucky tends to underprice tickets, and may collect less revenue than possible.

LSU and South Carolina are at the bottom of the rankings for the SEC.  In the time period of our study, LSU made the NCAA tournament four times (including a Final Four), but in three of those years they still could never get above 66% in average attendance/capacity.  South Carolina averaged just over 50% in average attendance/capacity in seasons where they had over 20 wins.

Why Texas and Oklahoma State are Ahead of Kansas: The Best Fan Bases in the Big 12

One of the more entertaining aspects of producing the Emory Sports Marketing Analytics blog has been emotional nature of the criticisms that we have received.  Our series ranking fan bases has been particularly provocative.

What does the preceding have to do with the Big Twelve?  Some of our critics claimed that our rankings were “silly” because Kansas was not ranked in the Top Ten, while Oklahoma State and Texas were.   We thought that we would take a bit more time with this post to investigate how we could possibly come to this result.

As a starting point, if you had asked us to name the top fan bases in college basketball before we ran the numbers we would have said (in no particular order) Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Indiana.  In other words, we would have bravely identified the conventional wisdom.  But our goal at Emory Sports Marketing Analytics is to go beyond the conventional wisdom, and to see what the numbers say.

Our emphasis on financial metrics also leads to some complaints.  This is somewhat odd given that we are covering sports that are clearly run like businesses.  It has been reported that Bill Self’s current deal with Kansas will pay him close to $50 million over ten years.  This suggests to us that Kansas very much views basketball through a financial lens.

Getting back to the conventional wisdom, we believe that Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas and Duke have exceptional fan bases.  However, we are not ready to concede that the passion felt by a Kansas fan exceeds that felt by an Oklahoma State or Texas fan.  Rather than rely on the noise created by fan bases, we examine how fans vote with their dollars.  And more to the point, we try to control for the role of on-court success.  While some may view this as crass, if you were the CEO of Apple or Coca Cola would you rather that your customers were highly loyal and willing to pay premium prices or would you rather that your brand was voted a fan favorite in an Internet poll?  The marketing concept that we are exploring is referred to as customer equity.  The basic idea is a brand’s ultimate source of revenues and profits is its customers.  Now a big caveat to this is that by measuring the value of the customer bases we are not controlling for how good of a job each institution does with managing its customer base.

The preceding list provides our breakdown of the Big Twelve.  Texas leads the way followed by Oklahoma State and then Kansas.  So what drives this result?  Over the last decade Texas has reported the largest basketball revenues in the conference followed by Kansas.  Texas’ advantage in revenue is slightly more than 4%.  More importantly, Texas generated this slightly higher revenue while winning around 5 games less per year than the Jayhawks.  Now one can argue that Texas has unique advantages or that Kansas could be generating more revenue, but our analysis is at least based on solid numbers and our dependent measure (revenue premium based brand equity) is an unambiguous term.

The other surprise was the ranking of Oklahoma State.  In this case, Kansas does produce about 25% more revenue than Oklahoma State.  But the Cowboys generated their revenue while winning about 35% less games per year and no national championships.  Both schools have proud histories and legendary past coaches.  What our analysis gets at is what would happen if both teams performed identically.  What would the environment be like at Gallagher-Iba arena if the Cowboys averaged 30 wins per year for a decade and had numerous trips to the Final Four?

(Note: The study examines 2001 to 2011, thus Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M, and Missouri are included in the Big 12)

The Best Fan Bases in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

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

For PAC-12 rankings please click here.

Our series on the Best Fan Bases in college basketball continues with an examination of the Atlantic Coast Conference.  The Duke Blue Devils are on top, followed by the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Maryland Terrapins.  Boston College and Florida State are on the bottom of the rankings.  (Note: For additional information on our methodology, click here)

Duke and North Carolina are two of the most storied college basketball programs.  Both schools averaged over 25 wins a season during the 2001-2011 time period, and both schools had at least one national championship.  Both schools almost always sell out their home games.  One of the key differences between the schools is that Duke makes almost double per seat in revenue than North Carolina.

The bottom of the ACC rankings is full of “football” schools (Clemson, Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Florida State).  In the time period of our study, Florida State made the NCAA tournament three consecutive years, but still could never get above 80% in average attendance/capacity.  This is in a market (Tallahassee) with no professional teams, and where fans often sell out a stadium (Doak Campbell) that seats over 80,000.

The Best Fan Bases in the Pacific Athletic Conference (PAC-12)

Yesterday, we examined the best fan bases in the Big Ten; today, our series on the Best Fan Bases in college basketball continues with a look at the Pacific Athletic Conference.  Arizona is number one, followed by UCLA, Washington, and Stanford.  USC and Washington State are at the bottom of the list.  Colorado and Utah are not included due their recent addition to the conference.   (Note: For additional information on our methodology, click here)

Arizona placed first in the conference, and also second in our overall rankings.  One may wonder how Arizona finished ahead of the one of the most storied programs in college basketball history, UCLA.  There are several factors drive this result; one key factor is attendance.  Over the ten years of our study, both UCLA and Arizona averaged approximately 22 wins.  However, the Wildcats almost always filled up the McKale Center, while the Bruins had trouble packing Pauley Pavilion.  Even in the 2005-2006 season, when UCLA had over 30 wins and went to the NCAA Championship game, they only averaged approximately 70% of capacity attendance.  In contrast, Arizona had only 16 wins in the 2009-2010 season, but still averaged around 95% of capacity attendance.  Thus, Arizona fans showed up even when the team was underperforming.

It is fair to point out that UCLA plays in a large market, where they have to compete with entertainment alternatives like the Lakers, the Dodgers, the Angels, USC, the beaches, and yes, now even the Clippers; whereas Arizona is the only game in town in Tucson.  However, being the only game in town does not ensure fan loyalty.  A great example of this point is Washington State, which finished last in the conference.  Despite back-to-back 26 win seasons in 2006-2007 & 2007-2008, the Cougars only averaged approximately 60% and 70% of capacity attendance, respectively.

Our next post will take a look at the ACC…

 

 

The Best Fan Bases in the Big 10 & Some Details on Our Methodology


Our post on the Best Fan Bases in college basketball generated several interesting comments and questions.  One common request was to see how other schools stacked up.  There were also a number of questions related to the methodology.

Today we start with the complete results for the Big Ten Conference (Our next post will examine the PAC-12).  Indiana comes out on top followed by Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin.  At the bottom of the list we have Penn State and Michigan.  Nebraska is not included in these ratings due to lack of data.

The difference between Indiana and national runner up Michigan highlights the way our method works. For most of the last decade, Michigan and Indiana both struggled on the court.  Consequently, Michigan fans stayed away, while Indiana continued its streak of ranking in the top 15 in the nation in terms of attendance.  We should also add for those that want to claim some sort of bias, Professor Mike Lewis is a diehard Illini fan, and it pains him to have Indiana rank number 1.

It may also be useful to provide a bit more of the methodology used to generate the rankings.  We start with information on men’s basketball revenues reported by the Department of Education.  As an aside, we should also point out that the analyses reported on the website all rely on publically available data. While this data may not be perfect (like just about any other data set), we do not have any reason to believe that the data is systematically biased.

We then build a regression model that predicts these revenues as a function of data that corresponds to team quality and market potential.  The following equation is a portion of the model used (we are trying to keep the stats to a minimum as we expect that 95% of readers just want to see the results):

The actual statistical model included a number of other factors such as dummy variables for each conference and several nonlinear measures of team quality such as a quadratic term for winning percentage.

We use this model to make a prediction of revenue for each school (i) in each year (t).  We call this prediction Revhat(i,t).  We next compute the residual for each observation in the data (Rev(i,t)-Revhat(i,t)).  This residual represents the difference in actual revenues versus the revenues expected based on market potential and on-court performance.  The fan equity rankings are based on the sum of the residuals for the last 5 years (the model is estimated using ten years of data).

A couple of points are worth noting.  First, we do not use a school fixed effect because we are interested in how this residual changes.  Using the last five years is a compromise between eliminating noise that occurs in a single year and also capturing the enduring but evolving fan equity.

A second issue that merits discussion is the role of conferences.  In our model we estimate a conference effect.  The reason we do this is to eliminate the benefits that a weak school can collect simply by being in the right conference.  For example, if we do not control for conference revenues schools like Northwestern actually do very well in the rankings because their revenues are extreme given their (lack of) on-court success.

The issue of conferences is a tough one and one that is beyond the type of analyses we do for the website.  The issue is that it is difficult to disentangle the conference effects from the school effects.  The outcome of this problem is that a school like Indiana ends up suffering in the overall ratings because some of the Big Ten “equity” should really be allocated to the Hoosiers.

The table below shows the rankings of conferences.  As expected the Big Ten leads the way followed by the ACC.  The key caveat for this chart is that the Big Ten network is what pushes the Big Ten ahead of the ACC.

Look out for our next post that will examine the PAC-12

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