The Passion For College Football.

American Football and Pom Poms on Field

Alabama and Wisconsin top College Football Poll

The college football season is immediately upon us and the issues and scandals facing perennial top programs Ohio State, USC and Miami are now constantly in the news. In many parts of the country there is a rabid passion for college football, but alas in some cases that same passion is one of the underlying reasons for the abuses that seem rampant. Over-zealous boosters, coaches which look the other way at rule breaking, and entitled stars all contribute to the problem. From recent research, college football is THE event at major campuses across—two in particular, the University of Alabama and the University of Wisconsin lead the way. I am also not a ‘Bama fan & never have been. I have always liked the University of Wisconsin and have fond memories of being tear gassed back in the early 70s when participating in a protest while visiting a buddy in Madison. More importantly, these two programs lead the nation on the “passion-meter”.

In this regard, this week’s Wednesday Struming comes from the August 2011 Media Audit FYI and it looks at the most passionate college football towns in the U.S. based on a survey of 104,000 people in 80 metros conducted between January 2010 and March 2011. It’s probably not a big surprise that the towns that house some of the nation’s biggest college programs (Birmingham/Bama, Madison/Wisconsin, Columbus/Ohio State) lead the way. Here’s the piece from Media Audit:

What do Crimson Tide, Badgers, Buckeyes, and Wolverines all have in common?  According to a new national report issued from The Media Audit, each is a team belonging to some of the top college football towns in America. According to The Media Audit, 77.1% of adults in Birmingham, Alabama regularly follow college football on TV or radio. As a result, Birmingham ranks as the top metro market among college football fans.

Madison, Wisconsin, home of the University of Wisconsin’s Badgers, ranks second in the national poll, with 74.1% of the metro area’s adults who regularly follow college football, followed by Columbus Ohio (73.5%), Little Rock, Arkansas (71.9%), and Ann Arbor, Michigan (71.5%).  Among all U.S. adults, 47.4% regularly follow college football, a figure that represents more than 68 million fans across The Media Audit’s 80 measured markets.

Collegiate football fans make ideal targets for many advertisers, including automotive, home improvement, and travel and leisure. According to the same study, 22.3% of college football fans are homeowners earning more than $100,000 in annual household income, and 26.5% have liquid assets in excess of $100,000. As a result, these fans can afford luxury automobiles and frequently travel.  Among these same fans, they are 35% more likely than the general population to be planning the purchase of an automobile priced over $30,000 and 16% more likely to already own a luxury vehicle such as a BMW, Mercedes Benz, Lexus, Infiniti, Jaguar, or Porsche.   Furthermore, college football fans are 18% more likely to be planning a cruise in the next two years, and 42% more likely to be frequent domestic air travelers.

Rounding out the top ten college football markets are Toledo, Ohio (71.3% regularly follow college football on TV or radio), followed by Omaha, Nebraska (70.7%), Jacksonville, Florida (68.9%), Boise, Idaho (68.8%), and Columbia-Jefferson City, Missouri (68.1%), home of the University of Missouri Tigers.

I’m glad to see that there is greater affluence among those who are passionate about college football. Interestingly none of the markets discussed above are top 10 media markets. The markets that college football dominates are typically markets which don’t vie for attention with many professional sports teams.

Regardless, a critical issue for college football, and college sports in general, is the correlation of passion and abuse. Even my alma mater, Rutgers, historically not a strong football program until the last 10 years, now has its share of issues related to the funds allocated to football. With success and passion, come complications. Rutgers opens Thursday night against North Carolina Central (Central?). RU, rah, rah.

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