North Carolina's men's basketball fans were ranked No. 11 by Emory Sports Marketing Analytics in their 2014 Fan Rankings, as reported by Manish Tripathi.
This somehow puts the Tar Heel fans this year as fourth among the Atlantic Coast Conference schools, behind Duke (2), Syracuse (6) and Pittsburgh (10).
No. 11? Really?
Emory's overall 2014 CBB Fan Equity Rankings are as follows:
9. Oklahoma State
11. North Carolina
13. Michigan State
According to Kentucky.com's John Clay, "for the second straight year, Louisville came out on top."
North Carolina dropped from its No. 5 ranking in 2013 (Duke was No. 3 and Syracuse came in at No. 8 last year).
What does this actually mean? Is this saying that Xavier has better fans than the Tar Heels? Do Pitt's supporters back their team better than they do in Chapel Hill?
Because there is no way to measure or compare fans' passion and intensity, Emory Sports Marketing has taken a different method in coming to their conclusion:
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.
In other words, successful programs are expected to have strong, loyal fanbases that express their devotion with their dollars.
The followers of teams like Xavier, Arkansas and Washington are recognized here because their support occurs in spite of less on-court success.
It's a surprise that schools like Kansas, Creighton, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Ohio State are missing from this list. These collegiate programs' fans consistently pack their home games and cheer their teams on year in and year out.
Bottom line: All of the schools that show up on Emory's list should be proud of this recognition.
North Carolina's drop from its 2013 fifth place can certainly be attributed to the team's roller coaster 2013-14 season.
Who knows? A 30-win 2014-15 season may send UNC back near the top of the AP and USA Today polls AND this unique slant on fan allegiance.