Notre Dame has the largest football fan base of any school in the country. They can sell out just about any stadium from Dublin to Honolulu, and it doesn't matter who and when they play or the records they and their opponent have compiled.
Although their following is huge, there's a strong possibility they're losing fans while other teams gain.
The downward trend in the Irish's television ratings has been well documented. And we've heard about conferences like the SEC, whose teams are now surpassing the television revenue that Notre Dame is bringing in.
But it's hard to judge a fan base when one team is being compared to a conference of teams.
The television numbers may be down due to the last 15 years of sub-par football— especially the last two. But with improved play, good ratings can return as quickly as they left.
It's not necessarily wins and losses that have led to a smaller fan base—it has to do with modernization and the way the fan is getting his or her information.
We've entered the computer age and have occupied it long enough to know that we like it.
Notre Dame has millions of fans from older generations, and many of them don't know much about computers. But today's fan, the fan of the future, follows their teams more with computers and less with newspapers.
Of the five teams with the largest membership on Bleacher Report—Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, and Florida—the Irish are not the leaders. And they're not leading on the two most popular college football Web sites either—Scout and Rivals.
In a study measuring the popularity of these five teams' performance on these three Web sites, Ohio State ranked first and Notre Dame ranked second.
The study weighed Bleacher Report and Scout equally. Because Rivals gets approximately 40 percent of the hits of Scout, it was weighed at 40 percent of the other two.
Alabama had the largest number of Bleacher Report members (696). Ohio State (686), Michigan (595), Notre Dame (577), and Florida (575) followed.
Alabama received a 100 percent grade and the others received percentage scores in relation to Alabama's 100—Ohio State (98), Michigan (85), Notre Dame (82), and Florida (82).
Scout and Rivals were measured throughout the day of May 11, the day when most every team had been fully underway with preseason practice and interest around the country was high. Readings were taken between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. and the results were averaged.
Ohio State had huge ratings on Scout. The average number of Ohio State fans logged on to Scout at any time on May 11 was 2,562. Florida (1,759) was next, and Notre Dame (1,605), Michigan (1,122), and Alabama (966) followed.
On the percentage rating, Ohio State received 100, followed by Florida (68), Notre Dame (62), Michigan (43), and Alabama (31).
Michigan led Rivals with an average reading of 995 fans throughout the day. Notre Dame was next with 905, and Alabama (591), Florida (455), and Ohio State (193) followed.
Michigan received a 100 percent score for Rivals, but because it was worth 40 percent of Scout, it was scaled down to 40, while Notre Dame (36), Alabama (24), Florida (18), and Ohio State (8) followed.
Cumulative scores were compiled by adding each team’s percentage values in the three categories. Ohio State finished first with 208, Notre Dame was second with 180. Florida and Michigan tied with 168, and Alabama scored 155.
The five teams were relatively close, but it was clear that more Ohio State fans followed their team on the Internet than the other four.
Of course, this can not be considered conclusive and merely reflects the results of Bleacher Report, Scout, and Rivals, while there are other websites, including official team websites, where people get information.
This is just a raw sampling, but Scout and Rivals are considered two of the most respected college football Web sites. It's more difficult to measure the popularity of Bleacher Report in relation to other Web sites of its kind.
It should be clear that viewer numbers fluctuate on a daily basis, which adds to the lack of reliability contained in this study.
Once again, this was a random sampling and the results should be taken with a statistical grain of salt.