College football fans will do just about anything for their teams. They’ll travel across the country to deliver well-wishes and make giant turkey legs branded with the school’s logo. No matter where you look, college football fan bases are doing something insane to represent their school’s colors.
Michael Lewis is the Director of Marketing Analytics Center at Emory University, as well as a professor who loves analyzing all things sports. In a recent study, he broke down the best fan bases in college football using market research, and his findings are sure to stir up some controversy.
For the purposes of this study, Lewis breaks down how he determines what makes a great college football fan base.
“When we talk about fandom, we are really talking about the relationship between teams and fans,” Lewis wrote. “If we focus on the team side the way forward becomes a bit clearer. On some level, college (and pro) teams are brands just like Apple or Coca-Cola. If we cast the question of fandom in terms of brand strength, then we can turn a bar room debate into a marketing science based analysis.”
Makes sense, right? College football teams, and their fan bases, are like the fans of a rock band. They travel well, support the band’s music on all platforms, and buy up their gear at every show.
To determine what makes a great fan base, Lewis chose three metrics:
1. Revenue premium, which accounts for the total money that comes into a school and compares that value to an estimated revenue that sets consistent variables like account alumni network, stadium size and overall team performance.
2. Return on investment, which takes the brand’s strength into account. If Alabama can grab any recruit in the country with a scholarship offer at the last second, they have a better ROI compared to a school like New Mexico State.
3. Relative football revenues, or how much of a particular market each program commands.
All these values together, Lewis uncovered a Top 10 list of the most impactful fan bases in college football:
1. Texas Longhorns
2. Tennessee Volunteers
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. LSU Tigers
5. Oklahoma Sooners
6. Georgia Bulldogs
7. Michigan Wolverines
8. Oregon Ducks
9. Auburn Tigers
10. Florida Gators
“WHAT!? NO ALABAMA!?”
“Are you kidding!? Where is Ohio State?!?!”
“The USC Trojans have got to be here, right?”
Lewis’ list leaves off some major college football contenders, but his research factors make sense — if a program is profitable, has a recognizable brand, dominate their market and have a large alumni network, then they qualify as a loyal fan base.
Ready for the bottom five fan bases in the country?
5. Miami Hurricanes
4. Virginia Cavaliers
3. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2. West Virginia Mountaineers
1. Purdue Boilermakers
Somewhere, Miami’s Mark Richt is ripping his turnover chain and Purdue alum Drew Brees is hopping a train to chat with Michael Lewis.
This research study is sure to stir up some major controversy, but hey, when the numbers backing it up, perhaps these really are the most loyal fan bases in college football?