Do Football Championships Benefit Other College Sports?

One of the most visible moments of all American sports is the NCAA division one football championship. Tens of thousands of fans pack into a stadium to see two universities compete head to head for the title of national champions. There is also added tension and excitement on the game as both teams battled through the College Football Playoff to get there. The battle to even get in the College Football Playoff has raged the entire season, and has been a highly watched affair. Sports networks and online articles have speculated all season who would get in, formulating scenarios and generating buzz about the teams most likely to get in. But with all of these eyes on the school’s football teams, do any other teams benefit?

The College Football Playoff is valued at more than 600 million dollars, with some of that money going to the schools that participate. The school that wins the national championship receives the most out of the four. Football is generally known around the NCAA as a revenue sport. Meaning that it makes more money than it takes to operate it. The other sport that is known as a traditional revenue sport is basketball. The rest of the sports in the college athletics landscape are known as non-revenue sports, meaning that they bring in less money than it takes to operate them. There are some schools that make money off of some of these sports, but in general the mass majority of these sports run in the red. 

That being said, with all of the eyes that are placed on football and all the exposure that it creates for the school, how much of a benefit is the football team to the rest of the sports at the university. Does having a national championship football team correlate into more success for traditional non-revenue producing sports? 

To answer this question, I choose five sports out of the traditional non-revenue producing category (women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s tennis) and compared their success pre and post national championship. These sports were chosen because all of the past five different schools that won the national championship sponsor them (men’s swimming at clemson is the lone exception as they recently cut their program). I also did not add repeat championships into the mix, so the date looks at the initial season of the sport and then the three years after the championship to see if they had improved. I voided the last two national championships, 2018 Clemson and 2017 Alabama, as they were very recent and not enough data had been accrued yet. The five schools that are included in this analysis are Clemson (2016), Alabama (2015), Ohio State (2014), Florida State (2013), and Auburn (2010). The graphs that follow show the same year that a championship was won, and then the next three years so see if there is any change (Year 1 is the year in which they won the national championship, and then the years afterward are the three year period).

The data shows that for four of the schools there is an uptick the year after the championship, with Alabama being the biggest jump at three wins. Ohio State had the biggest decrease with eight less wins at the end of the period. Generally, three of the teams (Florida State, Alabama, and Auburn) maintained about the same number of wins while Clemson had the biggest three year jump, improving from six to 11 wins.

For women’s soccer, the data tells us that Ohio State had the biggest jump over the three year period with eight more wins than what they started with. Florida State maintained their high win totals for the first two years but then dipped sharply to end with nine less wins than the first year. However, Florida State was the national runners up and then the national champions in the first two years so their three year run is deemed a short term success but a long term loss. Florida State, Auburn, and Alabama all had less wins at the end than they started with.

Out of the four men’s swimming programs, Florida State incurred the biggest loss dropping from 14th to 31st in the national standings in a matter of years (In swimming, lower is higher as one is best). Surprisingly, all four programs got worse over the period. Alabama incurred the lowest loss as they only dropped one place over the time period.

For women’s tennis, Alabama improved the most, improving by a staggering 13 wins over the period. Ohio State improved off of the jump by 11 wins, and then the following year accumulating 32 wins and a national semi finals appearance. But then the last year fell back to earth with a loss of 18 wins from the year prior. Clemson only had three years of data as they have not yet started their season this year. Alabama, Auburn, and Florida State were all on the upward trend. 

In men’s tennis, Ohio State improved every year and ended the period with an improvement of 7 wins from start to finish. The rest of the programs either improved slightly or declined slightly. Clemson (they have not started their season yet so that is why they are short a year in data) and Florida State had nearly no difference, while Auburn and Alabama essentially flipped win shares. Auburn starting with 16 and ending with 14 and then Alabama starting with 14 and ending with 16.

Out of the 24 programs that were analyzed, nine increased their win total over the three year period and 15 did not. Clemson with its four programs increased two and then saw two decline, its biggest jump was volleyball with five wins more at the end of the period. Alabama appears to be the most successful out of all the schools as four out of the five improved their win total and the one that declined only lost one place (swimming). Women’s tennis was the biggest beneficiary as they grew their wins by 13. Ohio State was very volatile as their sports for the most part went wildly one way or another. Women’s soccer and men’s tennis had big jumps but volleyball and men’s swimming suffered. Women’s tennis reached the national semifinal and grew their wins by 12 at the peak but then dropped 6 below their starting point at the end. Florida State either decreased or held steady in all of their sports. The outlier being soccer as they were hugely successful in the beginning with a national runner up and then a championship but then declined sharply towards the end of the period. Auburn decreased in every single sport except women’s tennis with which they had a giant jump with 12 wins.

The data appears to show that winning the national championship in football might have a negative effect on these five non-revenue sports as only 37.5% of them improved their win totals by the end of the three year period. 

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