Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Size Matters

During the recent hullabaloo about whether Kentucky was going to be able to lure Billy Donovan to Lexington, one of the most frequently put forth arguments by Kentucky fans was their supposed ability to pay Donovan big dollars.

Regardless of the outcome of the Donovan situation, the issue of athletic dollars suggested another topic –

Do heavily funded programs actually have more success?

For this study, we consulted the NCAA Financial Reports Database as compiled by the Indy Star for the most recent period available, the year ending 2005.

The database so generously compiled by the Indy Star does have some limitations, as some state schools are not required to report (such as Penn State), no private schools contacted reported (including USC, Duke or Miami of Florida), and some schools simply didn’t report (Oklahoma).

Nonetheless, the data available does provide some eye opening statistics regarding athletic revenue and success. The table below shows the top 50 reporting NCAA schools (of 166 total reporting) in terms of athletic revenue for the year ended 2005. Also displayed are top 10 finishes in football per the final rankings of the Coaches’ Poll since the year 2000, the number of times the school has reached the Final Four since 2000 and the overall number of National Titles in football and basketball since 2000. (2000 to 2007 was chosen as being relatively proximate to the dollar amounts reported.

Note - Basketball column is Final Four Appearances - Not Top 10

While the picture above may be hard to read (you can click on it for a larger version), the results are clearly top loaded.

Football Analysis

In regard to the football rankings, the following schools did not report –

Oklahoma – 5 top 10’s, 1 title
Miami – 4 top 10’s
USC – 5 top 10’s, 1 title
Penn State – 1 top 10

One can assume that, had they reported, they would have been in the top 50 somewhere, but we will ignore these for our purposes.

So, for a total of 70 possible data points (top 10 for 7 years), 15 are missing due to non-reporting.

Of the remaining 55 data points, only 3 times did a school not in the top 50 in total athletic dollars for 2005 place anywhere in the top 10 – Utah in 2004, TCU in 2005, and Boise State in 2006.

Thus, for the period 2000-2006, your chance of placing in the top 10 final Coaches’ Poll if you were one of the top 50 schools per athletic dollars was 94.5%. This is a pretty startling number, considering that the top 50 schools represent only 30% of all schools reporting.

The results are even more dramatic when you look at the top schools in athletic dollars. The top 7 schools alone are responsible for 20 top 10 finishes in 7 seasons – or 36% of all possible data points, for only 4.2% of reporting schools. If you look at the top 15 schools, they account for 56.4% of all top 10 finishes, while representing only 9% of reporting schools.

Basketball Analysis

In basketball the results are similar. Non-reporting schools that participated in the Final Four since 2000 include –

Duke – 2 times
Oklahoma – 1 time
Syracuse – 1 time
Marquette – 1 time

So, of 32 possible data points (2000-2007 NCAA Final Fours), 5 are removed for non-reporting. Of the remaining 27, all but 1 school was in the top 50 in 2005 athletic dollars – George Mason, who ranks 107.

Thus, 96.3% of all Final Four appearances since 2000 have come to schools that (per this list) rank 42nd or higher in athletic dollars. 51.8% have come to schools ranked 21st or higher, or only 12.6% of all schools reporting.

National Title Analysis

In looking at National Titles since 2000, we again have to remove the non-reporters. This takes out the following –

Oklahoma football 2000
Miami football 2001
USC football 2004
Duke basketball 2001
Syracuse basketball 2003

So, of 15 total National Titles (7 per the Coaches’ Poll, and 8 NCAA basketball titles) we take our 5 for non-reporting (more than I like for a data sample, but we deal with what we have).

Of the 10 National Titles remaining, every single one was won by a school ranked 27th or higher in total athletic dollars in 2005. The lowest ranked school, at 27th, was Maryland basketball in 2002. Thus, 100% of available titles were won by only 16.3% of reporting schools.

Perhaps most revealing, 50% of national titles for reporting schools since 2000 were won by 3 of the top 4 schools (OSU 1, Texas 1, UF 3).

Should the “have-nots” despair?

Based on this data, I would say - absolutely.

Put another way, the following is the chance of lower tier athletic schools achieving in football or basketball based on this data (All rankings for 2005 total athletic dollars) –

Chance of a top 10 finish in Football

Outside of the top 7 schools – 64%
Outside of the top 15 schools – 43.6%
Outside of the top 50 schools – 5.5%

Chance of a Final Four Appearance in Basketball

Outside of the top 13 schools – 63 %
Outside of the top 21 schools – 48.2 %
Outside of the top 50 schools – 3.7 %

Put yet another way, were we to divide the available schools beyond the top 50 by the percent chance of winning, we find the following chance on a per school basis (166 schools) –

Chance of a non-top 50 school of placing in the top 10 of the Coaches Poll – 0.047% chance.

Chance of a non-top 50 school playing in the Final Four – 0.032% chance.

Finally, there is the issue of National Titles

National Titles

Outside of the top 4 schools – 50%
Outside of the top 27 schools – No Chance

Thus, there is a wealth divide – and one can assume, quite reasonably in fact, that had they reported, Oklahoma, USC, Penn State, Duke and perhaps Miami would have been in the top 50. Were that data available, the results would be even more skewed towards the rich.

So, for the prospective fans of the next George Mason, is there a chance your team will reach the Final Four?

Yes there is - about three one hundredths of one percent.

Of winning it all?


Next – Whose money isn’t getting the job done.


SMQ said...

Financial reports link to Indy Star is broken somehow.

And if George Mason ranks in the I-A range (107th) in total spending without a I-A football team, I'd bet its basketball spending ranks much higher.

Henry Gomez said...

Thanks SMQ, try it now.