Welcome to the College Sports Page
College football continues to set records for attendance at regular season and bowl games. The television ratings for both also continue to rise. In 2010, just under 50 million people attended a football game during the regular season. More than 1.8 million went to a bowl game. The college football division II and III teams also showed an increase in attendance. Over 200 million people watched the regular season on ESPN and their other media outlets alone. Individual conferences have package deals with other networks, so that number does not encompass the entire NCAA. It is safe to say that college football is more popular than ever.
Most people think of college football as the sport that pays for other sports. This is true for some very successful teams. The Texas Longhorns are the most valuable college football team with Notre Dame second behind them. Both teams are worth over $100 million. A number of the teams are surprisingly valuable and manage to turn a profit. These teams are able to pay for themselves and help support other athletic programs. The list of most valuable teams also includes the most successful teams. Penn State, Nebraska, Alabama, and Florida to name a few. A number of these teams have very large stadiums and engage in selling personal seat licenses to their fans. It is a different story for teams who are not such household names. With smaller stadiums, smaller television revenue, and a not so rabid fan base, these teams often find themselves in the red at the end of a season. Even a season that includes a bowl game does not guarantee a profit, since the schools must transport and house so many players and other participants.
College basketball is second in popularity among college sports. March Madness is the most watched part of the college basketball season. This tournament alone has a $14.8 billion deal with the television networks. The final four ratings for college basketball were around a 9.7 share while the BCS Championship game gathered a 10.8 rating. That would indicate a near equal viewer interest in the championships of the two sports. ESPN announced that almost 10 million hours of streaming video was watched this year during the tournament.
Attendance in college basketball cannot match football despite a longer season. The top clubs feature venues seating 20,000 people or more. Programs like North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, and Connecticut will consistently sell out their arenas. Lesser clubs will have a much harder time of it, especially for early season games that do not mean as much to the fans. The profitability of the teams generally follows success. This is more true now since the revenue sharing agreement with the NCAA will reward teams with shares of the television money based on performance. An occasional surprise appearance in the tournament will certainly benefit smaller schools, but the perennial power schools will continue to play more games in the playoffs and thereby gain a much larger share of the money.
Women college basketball programs play in the same venues as the men, but have never approached the attendance numbers of their programs. There has been a decline in television ratings for women basketball games as well. The championship game of 2010 only drew an audience share of 2.7. The game lost in the ratings to episodic television shows. The women basketball games are well-played and competitive, but they have failed to captivate the public. The sport needs better recognition for the top players to increase popularity. The universities must offer a basketball program for women as well as men, but there is little revenue production by the women teams.
College baseball is a sport that has shown some growth in the last four years. ESPN has increased its coverage of the College World Series and will televise every game of the 64 team postseason tournament. It is still no match for its two bigger cousins. The schools themselves view the sport differently. Baseball is an equivalency sport. Each program has the equivalent of 11.7 scholarships. It is common practice for the schools to give out partial scholarships to their players. NCAA rules states that the minimum offer must cover at least 25% of the players expenses. Most programs field 27 players on a team, so the breakdown of scholarships is necessary if each player is to receive some assistance. Attendance at college baseball games is considerably lower than football or baseball. Most successful programs will have a baseball stadium seating 5,000. Powerhouse teams include Oregon, Oregon State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, LSU, Florida, and Mississippi State. Almost all college baseball teams operate at a loss. College baseball is about as popular as the women softball and volleyball teams.
College softball is among the most noticeable of women sports. The most successful teams put more money into their programs. These include larger venues to play and more active recruitment of players. Alabama is one school that has a softball stadium. It seats 3,940 people. Their single season record for attendance in a season is over 63,000 people in 28 games. The NCAA record is 72,545 set by Arizona, also over 28 games. The dominant teams in this sport besides the two mentioned above are California, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and others whose names would be familiar to any football fan. With an occasional exception like Louisiana-Lafayette in softball, the same schools tend to dominate college athletics in all sports. College softball is another sport that has grown in popularity. Performances in the Olympics combined with televised championship games has contributed to that. At least one softball championship in history has drawn higher ratings than the college baseball championship.
College tennis is a sport that is not well supported by universities. Every year there are schools that consider dropping their tennis programs. The story is the same, smaller schools lack the funding to invest in a sport that does not interest the public. College tennis competitions are not usually shown on television. Some schools attempt to increase awareness of their programs with webcam broadcasts. Professional tennis has recognizable players that play in famous tournaments. These players appear on television via sports coverage or even through their endorsement work. College tennis does not have well-known stars to attract the interest of the general public. The dominant schools in this sport are the same ones for men or women. The names are all familiar. USC, UCLA, Florida, and Virginia to name four.
College swimming, buoyed by Olympic successes of NCAA athletes, is a sport whose popularity is high currently. Swimming events appearing in prime time television during the Olympics heralds a surge in interest for the sport. The most recognizable figure in the sport, Michael Phelps, is retiring and this new-found popularity will most likely fade. This particular sport necessarily requires a lot of support from the university. Swimming teams need a special venue to practice and compete. Larger schools dominate any sport that requires a serious investment in money. Swimming is no different in this regard. The last two championships won by California were in both the men and women swimming competitions. Other high ranking schools include Arizona, Florida, and Texas.
College volleyball has different dominant teams than most other sports. Nine of the top ranked schools are in California. A few of the traditional powers appear in the rankings but smaller California schools are the powerhouses. UC-Irvine, Pepperdine, Long Beach State, and Pacific all make a name for themselves in the volleyball world. USC, UCLA, and Stanford also make the list. Team volleyball is usually played indoors and it is fairly easy to find a venue. If the school already has a basketball program, then they can play volleyball there. The Brigham Young University team led the nation in attendance in 2012. Over 54,000 fans attended the 17 home games for the men team. They are the only team in the nation to average over 3,000 per game. These numbers compare favorably with softball and baseball attendance. That would indicate volleyball is a very popular sport, at least on the west coast. Women volleyball competition returns the familiar names to the forefront of the sport. UCLA, Penn State, Texas, and USC are a few of the highest ranking schools. The Big Ten is the leading conference in terms of attendance with an average crowd of 2,350 for its schools. There are four individual schools that average more than 3,000 per game. Hawaii leads them all with 6,814 people per game. The women have a more popular game than the men in this sport.
College diving is with swimming in the major sports categories. The same universities that have swimming teams are the ones that have diving also. The diving programs in a number of schools are in danger of being dropped from the athletic department. These programs do not produce revenue. Whenever there is a funding problem, it is these programs that are considered expendable. This has already happened at a few major universities. The divers are part of the swimming team and compete together against other teams. The championship is the swimming and diving championship.
There is a commitment by some universities to invest in all of their athletic programs. Their goal is to win as many championships in as many sports as possible. The level of recognition for the university this brings is perhaps one reason for this approach. They are building a brand.