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Demographics of Fandom
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Fighting Muskie Offline
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Post: #1
Demographics of Fandom
In reading a few other threads, some comments got me thinking about the demographic tendencies of college athletic programs. To what extent do land grants and universities like Fresno St who lean towards more agricultural specialties tend to draw more rural conservative fans? It’s been my observation that interest in collegiate athletics is slipping among the liberal and urban crowd (urban centers are more pro sports focused, the wealthy left tends to be more interested in soccer/lacrosse etc if they have any sports interest at all).

Ohio is an exception as the land grant and flagship are one and the same and the Buckeyes draw from all demographics. What’s been your observation in your state/conference?

If schools who draw more heavily from blue America are losing support in athletics could this be good news for programs whose fan base leans right?

Keep it civil folks. I’m only interested in how demographics play into college sports, not the merits of political ideologies.
01-24-2023 04:17 PM
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Bronco'14 Offline
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
I don’t think there’s a connection between political affiliation, no. Maybe for soccer (liberal) & baseball (conservative). Other sports not as much, not even pro & collegiate football.

Yes, it’s hard for college sports to crack pro sports markets, but many college powers aren’t in pro sports cities.

Colleges in rural areas are still dominated by the Left institutionally & recruit heavy from the big cities.
(This post was last modified: 01-24-2023 04:24 PM by Bronco'14.)
01-24-2023 04:22 PM
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Frank the Tank Online
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 04:22 PM)Bronco14 Wrote:  I don’t think there’s a connection between political affiliation, no. Maybe for soccer (liberal) & baseball (conservative). Other sports not as much, not even pro & collegiate football.

Yes, it’s hard for college sports to crack pro sports markets, but many college powers aren’t in pro sports cities.

Colleges in rural areas are still dominated by the Left institutionally & recruit heavy from the big cities.

I'd push back that there's a connection, too.

Even in your baseball example, the top MLB markets consistently include NYC, Chicago and Boston and those are quite liberal areas. (To the extent that there's a "conservative" sport, it's NASCAR.)

The Big Ten just signed the largest TV deal of any college conference in history and its power is largely based on its presence in super-blue markets like NYC, LA, Chicago, DC and Philadelphia. Most of the Big Ten schools (such as Michigan and Wisconsin) are way to the left for public universities even by normal academia standards (which is already liberal leaning). The vast majority of students at the Big Ten schools aren't from rural areas at all, but rather large urban and suburban areas (even the more rural flagships like Iowa).

So, the wealthiest conference is a glaring counter-example that college fandom doesn't have much to do with political affiliation.

Now, the fact that young people don't watch much or any linear TV in general is the demographic issue that is much more concerning if you're either a TV network or a supplier of programming to TV networks (which includes sports leagues).
(This post was last modified: 01-24-2023 04:46 PM by Frank the Tank.)
01-24-2023 04:45 PM
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Post: #4
RE: Demographics of Fandom
I think Frank is right about the big issue. The average age of college football fans is over 50. Baseball is even worse. But pro football isn't much different.
01-24-2023 04:59 PM
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bill dazzle Offline
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
This is a topic that has fascinated me since the 1970s, and I commend Fighting Muskie for starting the thread (and asking that we keep it civil).

I have noticed on this board (started reading it in 2011) multiple comments and observations that, for example, suggested the posters failed to consider (merely by circumstance and not with malice or intent) the average black fan of college sports. It is why I have, in multiple posts, noted the significance of the Memphis Tiger black fan base and the Belmont Bruin white fan base — as I feel awareness of these dynamics is important. No doubt, "demographics in college sports fandom" are worthy of consideration and polite discussion.

In general, I would characterize the "average" college football fan as being more male than female, white than any other race, conservative rather than liberal, suburban/rural than urban, and mainstream than non-mainstream. Obviously, there are MANY exceptions to this rule — including with a decent number of posters on this board.

Men's college basketball might be a bit different from football in that the sport seemingly draws more female fans and fans of color. However, I could easily be wrong on that.

I strongly feel demographic shifts are at least partly influential related to 21st century fandom and have witnessed this first-hand with Vanderbilt football, which has developed a significant black fan base within a mere 12-year period. When James Franklin began his tenure as coach in 2011, the transition was quick. That was also the time that the late David Williams (African America) was AD.
(This post was last modified: 01-24-2023 05:17 PM by bill dazzle.)
01-24-2023 05:16 PM
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 04:17 PM)Fighting Muskie Wrote:  In reading a few other threads, some comments got me thinking about the demographic tendencies of college athletic programs. To what extent do land grants and universities like Fresno St who lean towards more agricultural specialties tend to draw more rural conservative fans? It’s been my observation that interest in collegiate athletics is slipping among the liberal and urban crowd (urban centers are more pro sports focused, the wealthy left tends to be more interested in soccer/lacrosse etc if they have any sports interest at all).

Ohio is an exception as the land grant and flagship are one and the same and the Buckeyes draw from all demographics. What’s been your observation in your state/conference?

If schools who draw more heavily from blue America are losing support in athletics could this be good news for programs whose fan base leans right?

Keep it civil folks. I’m only interested in how demographics play into college sports, not the merits of political ideologies.
Fresno County is like 65% red so they'll always have a deep fan base. The students are the main blue fans, teachers. They still have pride night for bball and stuff like that.
01-24-2023 05:55 PM
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Fighting Muskie Offline
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
Let me break up my OP into 2 main questions:

Which schools out there tend to have more rural/conservative fans and which schools to attract liberal/urban fans? A good example here I think is VT and UVA. VT strikes me as the red state school (in terms of who their fans are, not the politics of the university administrators) while UVA strikes me as the blue state school.

Part 2 is whether or not interest in college athletics is consistent across demographics and if they aren’t consistent, who tends to show stronger support.


I definitely see a Red State/Blue State pattern here. Where is college football support waning? It’s pretty obvious to me that the West Coast and the Northeast are seeing a decline in fan participation and those are among the bluest parts of the country. You’ve also got blue pockets like Colorado where the Buffaloes struggle for relevance.

The South and rural Midwest seem to be doing better.
01-24-2023 05:59 PM
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loki_the_bubba Online
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Post: #8
RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 05:59 PM)Fighting Muskie Wrote:  Let me break up my OP into 2 main questions:

Which schools out there tend to have more rural/conservative fans and which schools to attract liberal/urban fans? A good example here I think is VT and UVA. VT strikes me as the red state school (in terms of who their fans are, not the politics of the university administrators) while UVA strikes me as the blue state school.

Part 2 is whether or not interest in college athletics is consistent across demographics and if they aren’t consistent, who tends to show stronger support.


I definitely see a Red State/Blue State pattern here. Where is college football support waning? It’s pretty obvious to me that the West Coast and the Northeast are seeing a decline in fan participation and those are among the bluest parts of the country. You’ve also got blue pockets like Colorado where the Buffaloes struggle for relevance.

The South and rural Midwest seem to be doing better.

Aggies and T-sips are similar to VPI/UVA. But the Longhorns do have plenty of conservative fans.
01-24-2023 06:07 PM
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
Part of the problem in the northeast is the pros. Part is the cities which have so many other actvities. And part is that the old time powers-Army, Navy and the Ivy League, are pretty much irrelevant.
Even as late as the 60s, the Ivies still drew big crowds and got treated as major by the networks. But then the traditional programs of the region almost all became less significant.

Now in FBS beyond Army and Navy you have UConn, UMass and Buffalo, who are all recent move-ups. The only true northern "east coast" schools are Temple, Rutgers and BC, two of whom are historically bad. And only Penn St., Syracuse, Pitt and Maryland are also in the northeast.
01-24-2023 06:13 PM
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
I haven’t reviewed the methodology of this study, but it here doesn’t seem to be a racial disparity in CFB fandom

Level of interest in college football in the United States as of January 2023, by ethnicity

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1105...ethnicity/


Characteristic Avid fan Casual fan Not a fan
White 26% 32% 42%
Hispanic 26% 30% 43%
Black 28% 37% 35%
Other 17% 38% 45%
01-24-2023 06:17 PM
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 04:17 PM)Fighting Muskie Wrote:  In reading a few other threads, some comments got me thinking about the demographic tendencies of college athletic programs. To what extent do land grants and universities like Fresno St who lean towards more agricultural specialties tend to draw more rural conservative fans? It’s been my observation that interest in collegiate athletics is slipping among the liberal and urban crowd (urban centers are more pro sports focused, the wealthy left tends to be more interested in soccer/lacrosse etc if they have any sports interest at all).

Ohio is an exception as the land grant and flagship are one and the same and the Buckeyes draw from all demographics. What’s been your observation in your state/conference?

If schools who draw more heavily from blue America are losing support in athletics could this be good news for programs whose fan base leans right?

Keep it civil folks. I’m only interested in how demographics play into college sports, not the merits of political ideologies.

I think there are other lines to draw and it’s not quite easy to pigeon hole fan bases of schools into one bucket. To use my alma mater as an example, I am guessing most alumni and fans of UC over the age of 50 lean conservative. Most alumni under 40 are far to the left. I suspect Ohio State is fairly similar.

Miami of Ohio and XU alums tend to very conservative.
(This post was last modified: 01-24-2023 06:19 PM by CliftonAve.)
01-24-2023 06:18 PM
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 05:59 PM)Fighting Muskie Wrote:  Let me break up my OP into 2 main questions:

Which schools out there tend to have more rural/conservative fans and which schools to attract liberal/urban fans? A good example here I think is VT and UVA. VT strikes me as the red state school (in terms of who their fans are, not the politics of the university administrators) while UVA strikes me as the blue state school.

Part 2 is whether or not interest in college athletics is consistent across demographics and if they aren’t consistent, who tends to show stronger support.


I definitely see a Red State/Blue State pattern here. Where is college football support waning? It’s pretty obvious to me that the West Coast and the Northeast are seeing a decline in fan participation and those are among the bluest parts of the country. You’ve also got blue pockets like Colorado where the Buffaloes struggle for relevance.

The South and rural Midwest seem to be doing better.


I know that both the Memphis and Louisville football programs offer a strong fan base of urban/socio-politically progressive people.

Vanderbilt football offers a good percentage of local fans who are fiscal conservatives (less so social conservatives) and who live on Nashville's tony west side. These fans are overwhelmingly white and often have longstanding family ties to "old school West Nashville." But the program also has a decent number of fans such as myself who lean left and live in more urban areas of Nashville. A decent number of black VU fans are in this category.
(This post was last modified: 01-24-2023 06:23 PM by bill dazzle.)
01-24-2023 06:19 PM
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 06:07 PM)loki_the_bubba Wrote:  
(01-24-2023 05:59 PM)Fighting Muskie Wrote:  Let me break up my OP into 2 main questions:

Which schools out there tend to have more rural/conservative fans and which schools to attract liberal/urban fans? A good example here I think is VT and UVA. VT strikes me as the red state school (in terms of who their fans are, not the politics of the university administrators) while UVA strikes me as the blue state school.

Part 2 is whether or not interest in college athletics is consistent across demographics and if they aren’t consistent, who tends to show stronger support.


I definitely see a Red State/Blue State pattern here. Where is college football support waning? It’s pretty obvious to me that the West Coast and the Northeast are seeing a decline in fan participation and those are among the bluest parts of the country. You’ve also got blue pockets like Colorado where the Buffaloes struggle for relevance.

The South and rural Midwest seem to be doing better.

Aggies and T-sips are similar to VPI/UVA. But the Longhorns do have plenty of conservative fans.

Texas has always been a liberal university, but that is faculty and administration, not the students. Students, while liberal by Texas standards, on the average, are far, far to the right of Berkeley or Madison. Lots of Houston, DFW, Austin and San Antonio suburban kids. So fans span the political spectrum.
(This post was last modified: 01-24-2023 06:22 PM by bullet.)
01-24-2023 06:20 PM
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bill dazzle Offline
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 06:17 PM)jrj84105 Wrote:  I haven’t reviewed the methodology of this study, but it here doesn’t seem to be a racial disparity in CFB fandom

Level of interest in college football in the United States as of January 2023, by ethnicity

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1105...ethnicity/


Characteristic Avid fan Casual fan Not a fan
White 26% 32% 42%
Hispanic 26% 30% 43%
Black 28% 37% 35%
Other 17% 38% 45%


Very interesting. thx for posting!
01-24-2023 06:21 PM
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jrj84105 Offline
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
I also think that Urban/Rural may be surrogates that capture more proximal causes of differences in fandom.

I suspect that there might be some big differences in these demographics:
-No college.
-Some college or college at a schools without D1athletics
-College graduate of a minor D1 school
-College grad of a major D1 school.

I think we he highest fandom among the first and last category. I think the distribution of these demographics is very skewed between urban/rural.
01-24-2023 06:25 PM
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
Utah/BYU fandom is markedly skewed along racial, political, and religious lines with lesser skewing between age and gender.
BYU: white, almost exclusively conservative, majority of Mormons but especially older and male
Utah- minority of Mormons but disproportionately younger and female; anyone who is brown, non-Mormon, or liberal.
01-24-2023 06:33 PM
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Post: #17
RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 05:16 PM)bill dazzle Wrote:  This is a topic that has fascinated me since the 1970s, and I commend Fighting Muskie for starting the thread (and asking that we keep it civil).

I have noticed on this board (started reading it in 2011) multiple comments and observations that, for example, suggested the posters failed to consider (merely by circumstance and not with malice or intent) the average black fan of college sports. It is why I have, in multiple posts, noted the significance of the Memphis Tiger black fan base and the Belmont Bruin white fan base — as I feel awareness of these dynamics is important. No doubt, "demographics in college sports fandom" are worthy of consideration and polite discussion.

In general, I would characterize the "average" college football fan as being more male than female, white than any other race, conservative rather than liberal, suburban/rural than urban, and mainstream than non-mainstream. Obviously, there are MANY exceptions to this rule — including with a decent number of posters on this board.

Men's college basketball might be a bit different from football in that the sport seemingly draws more female fans and fans of color. However, I could easily be wrong on that.

I strongly feel demographic shifts are at least partly influential related to 21st century fandom and have witnessed this first-hand with Vanderbilt football, which has developed a significant black fan base within a mere 12-year period. When James Franklin began his tenure as coach in 2011, the transition was quick. That was also the time that the late David Williams (African America) was AD.

I might argue that basketball is more urban than football.
01-24-2023 06:51 PM
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 06:25 PM)jrj84105 Wrote:  I also think that Urban/Rural may be surrogates that capture more proximal causes of differences in fandom.

I suspect that there might be some big differences in these demographics:
-No college.
-Some college or college at a schools without D1athletics
-College graduate of a minor D1 school
-College grad of a major D1 school.

I think we he highest fandom among the first and last category. I think the distribution of these demographics is very skewed between urban/rural.

When I lived in Tennessee, the support for UT state-wide in the rural counties was incredible. And very few of them actually went to UT (or any college). Driving between Nashville and Fulton KY (farthest southwest in Kentucky you get) you drive through a dozen small cities, each with a radio station in the Vol Network. One Saturday while doing the drive, I did a test - between AM and FM, I found 7 different stations carrying the UT game.

Kentucky is the same way with UK (especially Basketball).

The urban Nashville market - there were UT T-shirt fans to be sure, but allegiance is far more strongly tied to where people went (and a much higher ratio of college grads/attendees than in the rural counties.
01-24-2023 06:53 PM
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 06:25 PM)jrj84105 Wrote:  I also think that Urban/Rural may be surrogates that capture more proximal causes of differences in fandom.

I suspect that there might be some big differences in these demographics:
-No college.
-Some college or college at a schools without D1athletics
-College graduate of a minor D1 school
-College grad of a major D1 school.

I think we he highest fandom among the first and last category. I think the distribution of these demographics is very skewed between urban/rural.

I think this is all accurate. And in rural areas that also happen to have a major D1 program, you're more likely to see locals support the team because it's one of the BIG things to do around there socially.

Another thing I'm thinking is that there's likely a difference for urban/suburban/rural based on the amount of space available. I grew up in the suburbs with decent, but not a ton of space. We had local parks to play whatever sports we wanted (had basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and ample space for football and soccer). Went to school in a much more rural area, and there were private yards big enough to host basically everything. I've lived in cities for the past ~15 years and haven't had a yard the entire time. The only real thing you can see are basketball courts (and also ice rinks).

Basically this is to say: I feel (and maybe the data will play out to show this) that in cities you're more likely to find basketball fans, and that everywhere else you're more likely to see a mix or fans that are of the big "field" sports.


edit: tl;dr: I'm guessing that at least a good portion of fanship is based on what you were able to play as a kid growing up (just for fun) based on available space you had in your neighborhood.
(This post was last modified: 01-24-2023 07:01 PM by e-parade.)
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RE: Demographics of Fandom
(01-24-2023 06:20 PM)bullet Wrote:  
(01-24-2023 06:07 PM)loki_the_bubba Wrote:  
(01-24-2023 05:59 PM)Fighting Muskie Wrote:  Let me break up my OP into 2 main questions:

Which schools out there tend to have more rural/conservative fans and which schools to attract liberal/urban fans? A good example here I think is VT and UVA. VT strikes me as the red state school (in terms of who their fans are, not the politics of the university administrators) while UVA strikes me as the blue state school.

Part 2 is whether or not interest in college athletics is consistent across demographics and if they aren’t consistent, who tends to show stronger support.


I definitely see a Red State/Blue State pattern here. Where is college football support waning? It’s pretty obvious to me that the West Coast and the Northeast are seeing a decline in fan participation and those are among the bluest parts of the country. You’ve also got blue pockets like Colorado where the Buffaloes struggle for relevance.

The South and rural Midwest seem to be doing better.

Aggies and T-sips are similar to VPI/UVA. But the Longhorns do have plenty of conservative fans.

Texas has always been a liberal university, but that is faculty and administration, not the students. Students, while liberal by Texas standards, on the average, are far, far to the right of Berkeley or Madison. Lots of Houston, DFW, Austin and San Antonio suburban kids. So fans span the political spectrum.

Regarding UT, this.

I tell people that there's a difference between the University of Texas and the Texas Longhorns (athletic department). This difference is not exclusive to UT, but UT provides a great example. UT is indeed very progressive. Texas Longhorn fans reside across all demographics and ideologies. Their athletic donor base also is made up of both progressives and conservatives. The Longhorns have a lot of t-shirt fans that could never dream of attending the University of Texas...this is true among most statewide flagship universities.

College sports are indeed very popular in conservative red states. It would be easy for me to say they are declining in progressive blue states, then I look at places like Oregon and Washington. Neither are conservative bastions. But the college teams are well supported...not on SEC levels, but better than one might expect. For that matter, UW holds its own in a market with three professional teams and its own unique progressive culture.
(This post was last modified: 01-24-2023 09:24 PM by johnintx.)
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