Friday, July 3, 2015

Understanding Power Conferences - some conclusions

There will always be a subjective component in what makes a power conference.  However, we can at least start with an outline of what makes a power conference a power conference.  Reading the "Frank the Tank" website gave me insight.

Basically his argument is that power conference value corresponds to a set of categories and how well the schools in the conference score in those categories as a group of schools.  Note that he excludes sports other than football or basketball.  I agree.  Your conference might have 12 National Hockey championships but no one is going to call it a "power conference".  Power conference for the most part means power football conference.

So here is a proposed metric.  How you award the points would be up to you.

Football brand value (30 points):  Clearly, this is what makes a power conference a power conference, because the revenue generated by football is massive compared to the revenue generated by other sports.  Note that in this category, we put more weight on historical record and financial backing than we put on recent success.  Even if the schools are having bad years in a power conference, those schools and the conference can still sell out their seats.

National TV value (15 points):  How much interest nationwide do these teams draw on television?  Does the conference have major deals with national networks? 

Local TV value (10 points):  How much interest do each of the power conference teams draw in their local markets?  Are their local markets large or small?

Demographics/football recruiting value (20 points):  What is the relative strength of high school football in the areas where the schools are located?  A power conference is more likely to have teams in recruiting hotbeds (Texas, Florida, California) than not.

Academics (5 to 25 points):  This really depends on the individual conference.  Some conferences like the Big Ten prize schools with good academics, others like the Big 12 less so.

Basketball value (5 to 10 points):  Basketball success might be the tipping point for a marginal conference being considered as a power conference, but basketball prowess by itself won't make a set of schools a power conference.

Geographic value (5 points):  Are the schools in the conference "fairly close" to each other?  Obviously the further west you go the more elastic you can be with distance.   The states in which the schools are located should be contiguous with very few outliers.  This should be an all-or-nothing value:  either the conference gets the full point total or it doesn't.

Upside potential/monopoly power (10 points): By monopoly power this means that the schools involved in the conference are the biggest schools in their states.  If not, are the schools flagship schools?  Are they academically elite schools?  Do they have a proven basketball fan base?  Are they making/have they made major investments in facilities?

Historic rivalries/cultural fit (0 to 5 points):  Do the schools have long lasting rivalries with each other?  Do the schools seem to be relatively "of the same type"?

Now comes the conclusions:

Clearly, the "Power Five" would score high in all of the above.  By "Power 5" we mean the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the SEC and the Pac-12 - although the ACC is geographically overstretched.

The "Big East" is not a power conference, period.  It has no football schools.  The End.

The American/AAC is not a power conference.  It doesn't have much football brand value or national TV value. Its schools are very overstretched geographically.  It has no natural rivalries (unlike the Big East) and its schools are not "of the same type".  Frankly, some of its schools, Connecticut especially, are just waiting to be poached by some other power conference looking to add members.

This concludes today's lecture on power conferences.

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