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College Football Victories Come at a Cost

| by Sports Nickel

By Zach Bigalke

So I’ve been tinkering around with a lot of college statistics lately… you’d think the clock had turned back and I was a high-school senior again or something, the way I’ve been looking at everything from win percentages to academic standards to the revenue that major schools spend on their sports teams.

Now the analysis that follows is by no means conclusive, but at least I think my methodology is sound…

Basically the goal in this week’s statistical analysis was to look at five of the six major conferences in both college football and men’s college basketball (the two sports that both generate the most revenue and swallow that revenue) to determine their relative strength both on and off the field. (I declined to analyze the Big East due to the fact that only half of its members compete in both sports at the top division.) Through my analysis I’ve created two different statistics:

• COST/WIN — This is sort of a simplification in description. Rather the formula works more like this:
Revenue ÷ [(wins in football + men's basketball) × win % in both sports] …
The basic goal is to assess how well that revenue is producing results in the two sports that both produce the most revenue and also use the greatest portion of the expenses, football and men’s basketball. How are the blue-chip athletic departments handling their finances. Are they getting outplayed by the little guys who were expected to have no chance due to the disparity in the playing field?
• SUCCESS RATE – Success rate weights the figure produced by the cost/win analysis against the graduation success rate the NCAA uses to assess what percentage of kids a school graduated over a rolling six-year window. Using a formula that divides the cost/win from the academic success rate divided by ratio of scholarships granted in each sport per year (85 for football, 13 for basketball).

The numbers came from two sources. First, the NCAA’s report on graduation success rate by sport was the source for graduation rates for each school in football and men’s basketball. School athletic expense data came from USA Today’s report on college finances. All data is for the 2009-10 fiscal year and the seasons which fell during that year (2009 football season, 2009-10 basketball season)…

So how do the top five conferences stack up against one another?

 GSR EXPENSES COST/WIN SUCCESS BIG TEN (10/11 public schools) 67% 81.96 6.42795 9.42364 SEC (11/12 public schools) 62% 81.64 5.44219 9.14866 PAC-10 (8/10 public schools) 59% 59.54 4.57354 8.04735 BIG XII (11/12 public schools) 60% 70.68 4.37520 7.70019 ACC (8/12 public schools) 64% 60.88 3.77809 5.88179

So what does this data mean? The Big Ten spends slightly more than the SEC on its programs, and gets slightly less value for it in terms of wins. But at the same time their success rate is higher in large part because they graduate five percent more of their athletes (which would translate to 29 more kids getting degrees from Big Ten schools than their SEC counterparts over that six-year window.

The Pac-10 graduates fewer football and men’s basketball athletes than any other major conference, but they also spend on average less than any other conference on their programs. Because of this even the mediocre schools from each sport fail to drag it down far enough (especially with Stanford and USC, both top schools, not included in the study due to lack of private-school data).

Even without its four top-shelf private schools — Duke, Boston College, Wake Forest and Miami — included in the data, the ACC graduates more players than all but the Big Ten. Its public-institution member schools spend on average just \$1.34 million more than their Pac-10 counterparts on athletic finances. Yet their success rate in general is abysmal when compared to the other conferences.

What does this tell us? Who knows… but it can be fun to think about the proposal that Mike Leach made back when he was still the coach at Texas Tech. When his Red Raiders were tied with Oklahoma and Texas atop the Big XII South standings, and they needed to break the tie to see who would play in the championship game against the top North team, Leach proposed using academic success as a tiebreaker. It would certainly be a novel way to include the student aspect of the student-athlete in the equation…

But let’s take it further. How much is what a school spends on sports indicative of its success on and off the field? What follow are the grades for every one of the public universities from the five conferences included in the study. Consider this a new sort of way of looking at team success in college sports…

 FOOTBALL BASKETBALL (in millions) GSR W L % GSR W L % EXPENSES COST/WIN SUCCESS Stanford 86% 8 5 0.615 80% 14 18 0.438 0.00000 0.00000 Washington 82% 5 7 0.417 44% 26 10 0.722 61.64 3.07879 4.00055 Cal 65% 8 5 0.615 30% 24 11 0.686 69.35 3.25078 5.38591 Arizona St. 63% 4 8 0.333 60% 22 11 0.667 57.91 3.85496 6.15788 USC 61% 9 4 0.692 42% 16 14 0.533 0.00000 0.00000 Washington St. 60% 1 11 0.083 44% 16 15 0.516 38.05 5.66142 9.78172 Oregon St. 56% 8 5 0.615 64% 14 18 0.438 52.67 4.89700 8.58202 Oregon 54% 10 3 0.769 79% 16 16 0.500 77.86 5.18299 9.04278 UCLA 52% 7 6 0.538 70% 14 18 0.438 61.88 6.31429 11.60976 Arizona 48% 8 5 0.615 20% 16 15 0.516 56.92 4.34806 9.81819 PAC-10 60% 7 6 51% 18 15 59% 59.54 4.57354 8.04735 FOOTBALL BASKETBALL (in millions) Northwestern 95% 8 5 0.615 90% 20 14 0.588 0.00000 0.00000 Penn St. 84% 11 2 0.846 86% 11 20 0.355 88.04 8.00364 9.49814 Iowa 79% 11 2 0.846 55% 10 22 0.313 74.44 7.59592 10.01884 Illinois 76% 3 9 0.250 100% 21 15 0.583 71.96 5.99667 7.57311 Michigan 72% 5 7 0.417 36% 15 17 0.469 89.13 9.80430 14.58442 Indiana 69% 4 8 0.333 62% 10 21 0.323 65.80 14.43571 21.20672 Wisconsin 65% 10 3 0.769 70% 24 9 0.727 92.26 3.67125 5.59102 Ohio St. 63% 11 2 0.846 64% 29 8 0.784 122.74 3.83563 6.07550 Purdue 60% 5 7 0.417 67% 29 6 0.829 58.37 2.37317 3.89501 Minnesota 56% 6 7 0.462 42% 21 14 0.600 78.71 5.18255 9.57199 Michigan St. 55% 6 7 0.462 50% 28 9 0.757 78.16 3.38062 6.22162 BIG TEN 68% 7 5 63% 20 14 67% 81.96 6.42795 9.42364 FOOTBALL BASKETBALL (in millions) Vanderbilt 89% 2 10 0.167 93% 24 9 0.727 0.00000 0.00000 Georgia 68% 8 5 0.615 36% 14 17 0.452 77.25 7.02273 11.01516 Florida 67% 13 1 0.929 44% 21 13 0.618 105.82 4.39391 6.87096 Alabama 67% 14 0 1.000 75% 17 15 0.531 98.96 4.73690 6.95976 LSU 67% 9 4 0.692 50% 11 20 0.355 102.32 11.25520 17.38392 Mississippi St. 64% 5 7 0.417 43% 24 12 0.667 36.27 2.07011 3.38174 Auburn 63% 8 5 0.615 27% 15 17 0.469 90.91 7.73336 13.28198 Kentucky 63% 7 6 0.538 44% 35 3 0.921 79.00 2.28401 3.77650 Mississippi 61% 9 4 0.692 64% 24 11 0.686 45.74 2.01609 3.28364 South Carolina 57% 7 6 0.538 53% 15 16 0.484 78.30 7.11818 12.60538 Arkansas 55% 8 5 0.615 22% 14 18 0.438 71.80 6.67562 13.18707 Tennessee 53% 7 6 0.538 40% 28 9 0.757 111.67 4.55796 8.88915 SEC 65% 8 5 49% 20 13 62% 81.64 5.44219 9.14866 FOOTBALL BASKETBALL (in millions) Missouri 71% 8 5 0.615 44% 23 11 0.676 61.77 3.02101 4.48099 Texas Tech 69% 9 4 0.692 44% 19 16 0.543 59.34 3.63306 5.53115 Kansas St. 69% 6 6 0.500 40% 29 8 0.784 42.34 1.69360 2.59942 Nebraska 68% 10 4 0.714 82% 15 18 0.455 71.74 5.39485 7.72269 Baylor 64% 4 8 0.333 38% 28 8 0.778 0.00000 0.00000 Iowa St. 64% 7 6 0.538 35% 15 17 0.469 46.66 4.33822 7.21197 Colorado 59% 3 9 0.250 43% 15 16 0.484 48.59 6.44867 11.33782 Oklahoma St. 59% 9 4 0.692 92% 22 11 0.667 83.75 4.00884 6.32534 Texas A&M 57% 6 7 0.462 64% 24 10 0.706 75.94 3.96576 6.84594 Kansas 56% 5 7 0.417 80% 33 3 0.917 69.24 2.30161 3.88892 Texas 49% 13 1 0.929 42% 24 10 0.706 130.44 4.57350 9.51397 Oklahoma 44% 8 5 0.615 55% 13 18 0.419 87.68 8.74812 19.24390 BIG XII 60% 7 6 56% 22 12 60% 70.68 4.37520 7.70019 FOOTBALL BASKETBALL (in millions) Duke 95% 3 9 0.250 83% 35 5 0.875 0.00000 0.00000 Boston College 90% 7 6 0.538 88% 15 16 0.484 0.00000 0.00000 Wake Forest 81% 3 9 0.250 100% 20 11 0.645 0.00000 0.00000 Miami 81% 7 6 0.538 73% 20 13 0.606 0.00000 0.00000 Virginia Tech 79% 11 3 0.786 75% 25 9 0.735 55.74 2.06444 2.63089 North Carolina 75% 8 5 0.615 88% 20 17 0.541 72.69 4.63584 6.04219 Virginia 75% 4 8 0.333 36% 15 16 0.484 70.87 8.44158 12.08936 Florida St. 64% 10 4 0.714 73% 22 10 0.688 75.21 3.37857 5.18235 Maryland 64% 9 4 0.692 31% 24 9 0.727 54.66 2.30887 3.87249 Clemson 60% 6 7 0.462 71% 21 11 0.656 56.78 3.50494 5.70287 NC State 56% 9 4 0.692 60% 20 16 0.556 45.88 2.67315 4.72868 Georgia Tech 49% 6 7 0.462 36% 23 13 0.639 55.22 3.21734 6.80550 ACC 65% 7 6 59% 22 12 64% 60.88 3.77809 5.88179

Okay, so that’s a lot of numbers. But the same rules apply as the did in the conference analysis. The less a school is spending relative to their success rate, the better. In a way, you could argue that — while they falter when it comes to football for the most part — the ACC is the best in the country at graduating players and getting victories relative to the amount of money that they spend on sports. Only Virginia — who had a losing record in both football and basketball in the 2009-10 analysis year — was above a 10 success rating.

What are the failings in such a rating? Only that it lacks the depth to properly account for the value of a football win versus a basketball win… which perhaps will be fixed soon enough in a future edition of this column.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this look, which if anything else is illuminating. The cost per win figures are definitely legit, while the success formula could still use some tweaking. Be sure to leave your thoughts and suggestions for future analysis!

Get more great analysis over at the Global Turnstile.