Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Stupidity of Crowds

A Jam-Packed Crowd at Ohio Stadium... where the blowouts just keep coming!

Obviously, I'm a fan of Ivy League football. But I also enjoy so-called "big-time" college ball too. During my years in the Midwest, I spent most fall weekends going to different Big 10 stadiums. The excitement generated by the huge crowds from the tailgate period to the end of the day is just great.

There's only one problem, "big-time" Division I-A football games aren't always so exciting. In fact, they're usually blowouts. And while I highly recommend that every Ivy football fan experience what it's like to go to a Big 10 or SEC game... we should all realize how lucky we have it to be fans of league where most of the games are really close.

I did a little research on the 2006 in-conference seasons for the Ivies, Big 10, Pac 10, ACC, Big East, Big 12, the WAC, and the SEC and the numbers back me up:

Ivy League

Total Games: 28

Avg. Margin of Victory: 10.2 points

Games Decided by Two Scores or More: 15 (53.5%)

Games Decided by Three Scores of More: 7 (25%)

Overtime Games: 4

Big 10

Total Games: 44

Avg. Margin of Victory: 16.8

Games Decided by Two Scores or More: 31 (70.4%)

Games Decided by Three Scores of More: 18 (40.9%)

Overtime Games: 0

Pac 10

Total Games: 45

Avg. Margin of Victory: 16.5 points

Games Decided by Two Scores or More: 32 (71.1%)

Games Decided by Three Scores of More: 21 (46.6%)

Overtime Games: 2


Total Games: 50

Avg. Margin of Victory: 12.7 points

Games Decided by Two Scores or More: 24 (48%)

Games Decided by Three Scores of More: 18 (36%)

Overtime Games: 1

Big East

Total Games: 28

Avg. Margin of Victory: 14.1 points

Games Decided by Two Scores or More: 20 (71.4%)

Games Decided by Three Scores or More: 14 (50%)

Overtime Games: 2


Total Games: 36

Avg. Margin of Victory: 22.3 points

Games Decided by Two Scores or More: 29 (80.5%)

Games Decided by Three Scores or More: 20 (55.5%)

Overtime Games: 0

Big 12

Total Games: 49

Avg. Margin of Victory: 14.0 Points

Games Decided by 2 Scores or More: 31 (63.2%)

Games Decided by 3 Score or More: 22 (44.8%)

Overtime Games: 3


Total Games: 48

Avg. Margin of Victory: 10.8 points

Games Decided by Two Scores or More: 23 (47.9%)

Games Decided by Three Scores or More: 16 (33.3%)

Overtime Games: 3

When you compare the Ivies to the three biggest football conferences in the BCS, no one but the SEC comes close. And to be fair, 2006 was an unusually competitive year for the SEC with teams like Kentucky and Vanderbilt playing well and perennial powers like Alabama falling off a bit.

The mid-majors are often even less competitive, as those conference usually sport one team that's BCS-Bowl bound and everyone else is far behind.

And as anyone who has been watching Ivy football for more than a few years can tell you, there is something about a late-game lead in an Ivy game that makes it feel less safe than any other kind of football you're likely to watch.

Add the fact that the Ivy players are actually students first, (something we just can't say about the overwhelming majority of "big-time" college players), and you have a wholesome and entertaining product to sell.

So why aren't more people showing up to the average Ivy game despite the facts that the contests are close and the players aren't thugs? For one thing, I think there are fewer sports fans graduating from Ivy schools these days. And since the alumni base is still the #1 source for fans on gameday, this is a problem.

But I think the real reason is what I call the "stupidity of crowds." Sorry, no disrespect intended to The Wisdom of Crowds author James Surowiecki, but sometimes the large crowds flocking to certain sporting events attract more interest than they deserve. Younger fans see all the TV coverage of huge crowds at D-IA games and they're convinced they're must be a good reason for it. TV sponsors salivate at the numbers, even though there are often better retail consumer demographics watching the Home Shopping Network.

Look at the other "popular" attractions in this country. Millions eat at that garbage disposal known as McDonald's. Coke is still the top soft drink in America, and that stuff is basically sugar water. But you know, everyone else is doing it.

If you and your friends and/or family go to an Ivy League football game you are MORE likely to see an exciting game for a lot less money and hassle than almost any other major sporting event in the country. Okay, so the game won't be given its own segment on ESPN... but ESPN is spending more time discussing "Dancing with the Stars" anyway these days. Just try it. Believe me, you'll like it.


At Wed May 30, 03:36:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous jimbo said...

are those numbers for the big time conferences just intraconference games. I know a lot of the big timers play early season games against mid-majors and win by about 80 pts. (usually in front of a sell-out crowd of 100,000)

At Wed May 30, 03:40:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...


Yes, these are just in-conference games.

At Wed May 30, 01:57:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having the privilege of becoming a Columbia "football parent" just two years ago I am speaking from a short term perspective but it appears that the disdain for athletes shown by the liberal Communists that make up the majority of the Administrations in the Ivy, slides right on down to the student body! Until it becomes "cool" for the entire campus (incl the faculty) to attend a game the crowds at the Ivy games will remain sparse. Thank God for Diane Murphy and here's hoping she continues to win friends among the Lions' Administration.

At Wed May 30, 08:31:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

It's not that they're liberals. Liberals are sports fans too. In my experience the academic administrators and many professors at Columbia come from another universe. Read Des Werthman's interview when he talks about an American-born prof. he had who didn't even seem to know what football was. A classmate of mine during my undergrad years used to babysit for a married couple who were both profs at CU and they would have her watch their kids while they each went out on separate dates with different people. There are tons of stories like this. "Liberal" really isn't the word for these wacky people.

But again, don't blame the students. There is always a decent student presence at games. The onus is on the alums who live in the area and don't come to the games. We also need to get the visiting team alums to come too.

At Wed May 30, 09:31:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, you have to admit that at the very least the far left-wing liberal community has not been very supportive of Columbia athletics over the last fifty years. Sure there are some "liberal" Yankee and Mets baseball fans in the West Side community, but most of them know nothing about football having grown up in New York City where high school football barely exists. It was the far left wing that destroyed Columbia's proposed gymnasium in Morningside Park in 1968, not conservatives. And it's the far left wing that is opposing Columbia's Manhattanville expansion, not conservatives. That's just the way it is in New York City, Jake, and if you don't realize it now, you'll understand it some day.

At Wed May 30, 09:40:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

No, I realize that... I'm just saying that these people are actually a lot more than liberals. They're crazy. Do they start out as more conventional liberals and then go off the deep end? I'm not sure. But every political group has their crazies, and CU has suffered unduly at the hands of these radicals for 40 years now. Enough is enough.

At Wed May 30, 10:33:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Dave said...

Liberal communists?Sounds like an arguement in a redneck bar.Is this the best and brightest Lion alums?It sounds like Columbia is headed in the right direction,that will generate interest.This blog is a great way to generate fan interest!

At Wed May 30, 10:42:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...


I would agree that it sounds mean-spirited... but the truth is, people who oppose CU athletics refer to themselves as "liberal communists", etc. I'd say I'm a liberal on most issues, but there's liberal and then there's crazy. Opposing the gym in '68 and a lot of the other plans at Columbia over the years has been plain crazy.

At Fri Jun 01, 01:54:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem in 1968 is that the do-nothing administartion and board sat on its hands with the new gym plans for years. The plans were set in 1963 (see Fall 1963 CCT), and the land had already been set aside, but that do nothing board and administration did not make a leap of faith and build it. Had ground been broken in 1963, it never would have been an issue.

At Sat Jun 02, 12:41:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right. No one objected to the proposed gym in Morningside Park for several years. Shame it wasn't built. Tens of thousands of kids from the local community would have beneifitted over the years from the new gymnasium, but unfortunately the West Side ultra liberals wouldn't allow that to happen. They just duped the local politicians and residents. At least the West Side ultra liberals couldn't stop the Yankees from builing a new stadium in the Bronx!


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