Pac-10's Expansion Question and the Hard Numbers

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Pac-10's Expansion Question and the Hard Numbers
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What will be worth more to television executives: the Mormons or the city of Denver?

Sometime in the next six months a sports marketing company or consultant in an expensive conference room will try to answer that question for the Pac-10.

They will then have to decide to whom to issue invitations to become their 11th and 12th members, if they decide to issue them at all.

This evaluation process will resemble a rush week or a country club application: How much money does the candidate make? What kind of member would they be?

The marketers’ evaluation will probably boil down to four areas, some of which are easier to evaluate than others.

Some questions are fairly easy to answer. For example: What kind of football program do they have?

Some are a little more nebulous: How much money would their addition net the conference?

Some leave a lot to interpretation: What kind of academic school are they and do they fit culturally?

The data below is probably similar to what the Pac-10 will review. It shows that the only financial candidates comparable to the current Pac-10 members are BYU, Colorado, Utah, Texas, and Texas A&M.

Boise State’s market size and academics pose roadblocks. Also, for those schools that merit invitations, it is not a given that they will accept.

Texas, like Notre Dame, is on everyone’s expansion wish list, but is unlikely to accept an offer, which leaves BYU, Colorado, and Utah available for two openings.

Colorado already turned down a formal invite in the 1990s, but they may be less connected to the Big 12 than they were to the old Big Eight. The only way the Pac-10 would find out is to ask.

 

Question One: What Kind of Football Program Do They Have?

The marketers will look at not only how good the teams are, but also what kind of tradition the school has. Any school will likely improve with access to recruiting advantages and sharing Pac-10 revenue, but if the Pac-10 is going house hunting, they would like one that’s in good shape rather than a run-down fixer-upper.

It takes a long time to build a football program. The first column of data shows the teams with the strongest history. But, even if a school has tradition, the Pac-10 needs to make a splash with their invitation.

In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, they need to look at what the candidates have done lately and the next two columns show that.

The order generally favors history over recent seasons, but not always.

The third column shows the BCS computer average for the last two years. This number is important because it is part of the formula for determining automatic qualification status for conferences.

By adding too many schools with a high number, the conference could risk its BCS status. There are 120 schools in the FBS subdivision, so a rank of 60 is an average team and a rank of one is the best. No BCS conference has an average higher than 50.


Pac-10 Baseline

All-Time Number of Years Finished Ranked (AP or Coaches)

Number of Wins Since 2005

Average BCS Computer Value for 2008-09

 USC

47

55

12.5

 UCLA

32

34

66.4

 Cal

15

39

27.9

 Oregon

11

44

13.5

 Arizona State

19

30

68.3

 Oregon State

11

37

20.9

 Washington

24

16

84.4

 Stanford

15

23

42.4

 Arizona

7

26

37

 WSU

11

16

108.5

 

 

 

 

Expansion Candidates

 

 

Texas

47

57

2.5

TCU

15

50

7.8

BYU

17

46

17.3

Boise State

6

53

7.4

Utah

6

45

15.8

Texas A&M

23

28

71.6

Colorado

21

22

76.8

Fresno State

3

33

56.9

Hawaii

3

36

70.9

Nevada

0

36

53.4

SDSU

4

16

103.3

Colorado State

3

19

83.8

SJSU

1

20

95.8

UNLV

0

14

81.4

 

Source: http://www.cfbdatawarehouse.com/ and my own compilation of BCS aggregate computer polls.

 

Question Two: How Much Money Would Their Addition Net the Conference?

After evaluating potentially-competitive football teams and considering their academics, the next step is finding out what kind of money those teams can command from television networks.

There needs to be a compelling product on the field and good students in the classroom, but what funds the SEC’s and Big 10's mammoth contracts are the people in the seats and the eyeballs at home.

Please keep in mind that media market size and potential are not an exact science. Some schools are not central to a geographic market, but have a strong presence in it, like the University of Oregon and the market of Portland.

Some schools are in a large market, but barely move the ratings or attendance dial, like San Jose State. In the end, a school is going to be worth as much as a television executive is willing to pay for it.

Along these lines of caveats and considerations, the Pac-10 should consider that while Colorado is located in the 16th biggest US market, with a population of about three million people, the Buffaloes have to compete with the Broncos and Rockies for media time there.

Also, hopefully the Pac-10 considers the media presence of BYU outside their local market. BYU draws well in its 31st-ranked market, but there are more than four million Mormons in the Western United States, making the combined Mormon market-potential something close to the population of Phoenix, the 12th biggest market in the country.

Media buyers and TV networks are built on selling ad space to measured media markets, not to Mormons spread throughout the country.

The Denver market is probably going to be more appealing because it is a known and easily measured quantity, but that doesn’t mean it necessarily would be better.

The people in the 1.5 million homes in Denver may not watch the Buffaloes any more than the 1.8 million Western Mormon homes would watch BYU.


Pac-10 Baseline

Average Football Attendance 06-09

DMA Market Rank

Millions of Households Reached in Market

 USC

87.6

2

5.7

 UCLA

69.6

2

5.7

 Cal

62.1

6

2.5

 Washington

63.3

13

1.8

 Oregon

58.5

22

1.8

 Arizona St

57.4

12

1.9

 Arizona

53.2

66

0.45

 Stanford

39.1

6

2.5

 Oregon State

42.3

22

1.8

 WSU

29.9

75

0.41

 

 

 

 

Expansion Candidates

 

 

 Texas

92.7

5

2.5

 Texas A&M

79.2

5

2.5

 Colorado

49

16

1.5

 BYU

63.3

31

0.94-1.8**

 Utah

44.1

31

0.94

 TCU

32.6

5

2.5

 Hawaii

39.2

71

0.43

 Fresno State

36.5

55

0.57

 SDSU

26.5

28

1

 Colorado State

22.6

16

1.5

 Boise

31.4

112

0.26

 UNLV

23

42

0.72

 SJSU

17.6

6

2.5

 Nevada

17.5

108

0.27

 

*There is no metered measurement for how many LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—Mormon) homes are in the Western US, but based on available data I estimate there are 1.8 million Mormon households in that region.

Obviously not every Mormon is interested in BYU, however, just like not every household in Denver is interested in Colorado. But that is part of their market potential.

Sources: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=1304
http://www.tvb.org/rcentral/markettrack/us_hh_by_dma.asp
http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/statistical-information



Question Three: How Do They Fit Academically and Culturally?

The Pac-10 is a group of institutions of higher learning, so academic requirements matter. There is a range of factors the Pac-10 could consider on this front and, without knowing exactly what matters most, it is difficult to judge.

They could consider everything from undergraduate admission standards to the number of doctoral degrees and research dollars spent every year.

The US News and World Report ranks schools, but there’s no telling if their criteria has anything to do with the Pac-10’s criteria.

In terms of undergraduate education, it appears the Pac-10 has some very good schools, and some pretty poor schools.


Pac-10 Baseline

US News Ranking

 Stanford

4

 Cal

21

 UCLA

24

 USC

26

 Washington

42

 Arizona

102

 WSU

106

 Oregon

115

 Arizona St

121

 Oregon State

--

 

 

Expansion Candidates

 Fresno State

38

 SJSU

38

 Texas

47

 Boise State

57

 Texas A&M

61

 BYU

71

 Colorado

77

 TCU

110

 Utah

126

 Colorado State

128

 Hawaii

--

 SDSU

--

 UNLV

--

 Nevada

--

 

The argument about academics is probably not about undergraduate education, however. Supposedly, being a “research school” is what sets the Pac-10 apart.

What doctoral degrees have to do with athletics is a good question, but research does distinguish schools like Cal from their state counterparts like Fresno.

The Carnegie Foundation quantifies schools' research status and classifies every Pac-10 school as a research university with very high research activity.

Among the expansion candidates, Texas, Texas A&M, Colorado, Utah, Colorado State, and Hawaii have that same classification. BYU, SDSU, UNLV, and Nevada are considered research universities with high research activity.

If research is what matters most, it may be a bigger hindrance to TCU, which is classified as a doctoral/research university and for Boise, San Jose State, and Fresno State, which are all considered masters colleges and universities.

Sources: http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/national-universities-rankings/
http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications/

 

Finally, how do the candidates fit culturally?

The Pac-10 has mentioned the question of culture specifically as a criterion for admission, but until someone from the Pac-10 is willing to define exactly what the culture is, I’m not going to argue over who is in and who is out.

Hopefully, someone on their search committee points out to them that teams that are perfect fits culturally often make really boring rivals.

I have pointed out earlier that the fact that Duke and North Carolina are not good cultural fits is the reason why their game sells all its tickets and gets good ratings every year.

So without knowing exactly what the Pac-10 means by academics, or culture, that’s probably a lot of the data they’re going to look at.

Given the pressure to get a big new TV deal, what would you do? Invite Texas and Texas A&M?

What if they say no, or go to the Big 10? Would you invite Colorado for their market?

Would their decline in athletics worry you? Would you invite the conference's third private school, but only religiously-affiliated school?

The Big XII requires schools to give notice before July 1 to avoid stiffer exit fees, so we should know by then.

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