Why the PAC10 is Struggling to Make a Media Deal: Part 2a–Comparing Silver & Altimore’s Fan base rankings

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Link to Part 1: Intro

Link to Part 2: Brand/Fan Base Value 

Zack Miller’s ranking system also included Nate Silver’s 2011 attempt at quantifying each school’s total football fan base.  Often debated, Silver did  attempt to provide a “total fans” estimate for each FBS school and employed some interesting methodology.  While largely in line with “passing the smell test” with the results, there were a few “stinkers.”  Oregon was only allotted 628K fans (45th) compared to Cal’s 950K fans (31st).  Illinois at 27th with only 100K fewer fans than Georgia’s 1.1M (22nd) didn’t seem quite right.  And Georgia Tech at 11th nationally with 1.7M fans was quite head-scratching…

We considered including both Silver’s 2011 fan base findings and comparing them to Tony Altimore’s more recent attempt, but the findings for both were puzzling enough as to call into question the underlying methodologies (GIGO principle: “Garbage In = Garbage Out.”)  While both are to be commended for delving into this complex question, we felt it best to not include either as truly accurate measures.  Similar to the oddities listed with Silver’s attempt, Altimore’s findings, which he calls a “synthesis of 2011, 2014 & 2019 NYT + 538 studies,” (though we could not find an explanation of how these were weighted) vaulted Oregon up to 7th in the nation, with 5.54M estimated fans, ahead of Alabama, LSU, and Georgia.  His findings claimed that Syracuse had the 14th largest FOOTBALL fan base with 3.45M fans, ahead of Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida State, Nebraska, and Clemson.  Claiming that Ohio State  (#1 with 11.26M fans) had nearly double the fans as Michigan didn’t win him any friends or respect in Ann Arbor either.  USC at #10 seemed overvalued as well when they rank 22nd in average attendance and 25th in TV Viewership over the last few years.

We ran a quick analysis comparing these two systems and found the following results:

Table 2 Link here)


While the eye-catching finding is Altimore showing a large increase in PAC10 fan bases (especially relative to the other conferences,) the majority of this can be explained by the disparate findings for the Oregon Ducks alone, nearly a nine-fold increase.  While it’s pretty clear that Silver’s system vastly underestimated Oregon’s fan base, it’s also pretty apparent that Altimore’s system overestimated it.  As with most things, the truth is surely somewhere in the middle.  Again, it’s complex and confusing and we don’t feel comfortable putting too much stock into either of these systems.


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