The American Athletic Conference: Surprising Results that Portend a Bright Future

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.

The American Athletic Conference (AAC) is the product of conference realignment, and a fascinating story.  The former Big East schools are desperately trying to construct a league that can keep the AAC in discussion of the Power 6 conferences rather than fading back into the pack.  To some degree, our analyses suggest that the AAC has made a few good moves.  We already rank the AAC as the number five conference, and there is reason to believe that the AAC has landed several programs with bright futures.

Number one on our list of the most supportive fan bases is SMU.  This is both a surprising result, and also a result that illustrates the benefit of our approach.  While the last few seasons have seen SMU take a step forward and qualify for bowl games, over the ten years of data, the team has tended to play sub .500 football.  The fan support provided to SMU relative to the on field performance has been outstanding. This issue is best illustrated via a comparison between SMU and Cincinnati.  Over the ten year period of our analysis, SMU was a four win per year team while Cincinnati was a seven or eight win team.  However, while Cincinnati won almost double the number of games as SMU, their revenues were about 20% less.  Our interpretation of these results is that SMU has a sleeping giant of a fan base, and it would like make sense for SMU to invest heavily in their program.

In second place, we have the Memphis Tigers.  Memphis is fairly similar to SMU in that they have very solid support (30K+ attendance) for a team that has been average on the field.  It is these two programs that tell us that the AAC may have a chance to remain a major conference.  We suspect that if SMU and Memphis become on-field successes their fans will be highly supportive.

One the bottom half of our rankings, we had a couple of surprises.  We have already mentioned the issue with Cincinnati.  UCONN has generated revenues similar to SMU but these have been generated with a better performing team, and as a member of the former Big East.  Likewise, Louisville was also a bit of a surprise.  And again, the issue was that the fan support is just not what we should suspect given the Cardinals’ on-field success.  The Louisville story is also interesting because in our analysis of the brand equity of college basketball teams, Louisville finished number one overall.  The UConn and Louisville results suggest that it is a challenge to build fan equity in football when you are historically a basketball school.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.



Nevada & BYU Best at Converting Talent into NBA Draft Picks: Ranking the Best of the Rest (Non-BCS)

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 Non-BCS Conferences (The Best of the “Mid-Majors”).    The chart below lists our efficiency rankings (for more details on our methodology, please click here).  The University of Nevada Wolfpack were the leaders in converting talent into NBA draft picks.  The Wolfpack were followed closely by BYU.  It should be noted that there was a minimum threshold of recruiting talent over the ten year study that was needed to be considered for this analysis.

Nevada and BYU not only are on top of the “Best of the Non-BCS” ranking, but they are also the two best teams in the country overall based on this talent conversion metric. Also, although Colorado State and North Texas are at the bottom of this top 10, their conversion rates would put them near the top of any of the BCS conference rankings.  Finally, Gonzaga and Memphis are not on this list, despite producing 3 and 9 draft picks, respectively, during the period of this study.  This is due to when we control for the amount of talent that was recruited to these schools, their conversion rates are less than stellar.

In the period of the study, Nevada did not have any 5-Star recruits in its basketball program.   Nevada had 50% of its 4-Star recruits, 17% of its 3-Star recruits, 14% of its 2-Star recruits, and 6% of its non-rated recruits drafted into the NBA.  This is incredible given that the national overall average for getting drafted was 13% for 4-Star recruits, 3% for 3-Star recruits, 0.8% for 2-Star recruits, and 0.4% for non-rated recruits!

Similar to Nevada, BYU did very well in converting lower-ranked talent.  BYU had 14% of its 3-Star recruits drafted into the NBA.  Remarkably, BYU had 13% of its non-ranked players drafted; this is almost 33 times better than the overall national average!