Ranking PAC 12 Football Fan Bases

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.




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.


Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University, 2013.

Washington & USC Best at Converting Talent into NBA Draft Picks: Ranking the PAC-12

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 PAC-12.  The chart below lists our efficiency rankings for the PAC-12 (for more details on our methodology, please click here).  The University of Washington was the clear leader in the PAC-12 in converting talent into NBA draft picks.  The Huskies were followed by USC and Cal.  Traditional power UCLA finished 5th.

In the period of our study, Washington produced nine draft picks, and 22% of the overall recruits for UW were drafted into the NBA.  66% of 5-Star recruits, 31% of 4-Star recruits, and 12.5% of 3-Star recruits from UW were drafted.  This is truly remarkable given the overall national draft rates: 51% for 5-Star, 13% for 4-Star and 3% for 3-Star!

USC finished second in the PAC-12 rankings.  The Trojans had 29% of their 4-Star recruits drafted, and had two 3-Star recruits drafted in the first round.  Cal finishing third potentially speaks to the importance of the head coach in the efficiency rankings.  Mike Montgomery, the head coach for Cal, was at Stanford in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Cardinal enjoyed an excellent talent to NBA draft pick conversion rate.  Current head coach Johnny Dawkins has produced a grand total of 0 draft picks for the Cardinal from his recruiting classes.




2013 NFL Draft Recap Pt 2: The Pacific Northwest Dominates the PAC-12

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 begin our team-level discussion with an analysis of the PAC-12.  (Our next conference will be the Big Ten, follow us @sportsmktprof for updates)

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.

Winners: While Oregon State (2 Picks) and Washington State (1 Pick) produced fewer picks than UCLA (4 Picks) or USC (4 Picks), they also had far lower ranked recruiting classes during the relevant period.  Thus, teams like Oregon State were better at converting what they started with into NFL draft material.  Oregon produced 5 draft picks, even though their recruiting classes on average were ranked lower than UCLA and USC.

Middle of the Pack: Stanford had 3 picks in the draft, but also had good recruiting classes from the Harbaugh years on the Farm.  Similarly, UCLA had 4 picks, but all of its recruiting classes were in the top 15.

Losers: Arizona State and Arizona State both averaged top 50 recruiting classes, but neither school had a draft pick in the 2013 draft.  Washington also averaged a top 50 recruiting class, but only had one pick.

By Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013

Methodology for the study explained here.