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Expansion By The Numbers 3: Total State Population

In Part 3 of our SEC expansion series, we wanted to look total population.  In addition to television households — which we looked at in Part 2 — leagues are hoping to increase their overall influence.  You do that by reaching more people, total.

There’s also a financial side to expanding a league’s population base.  First, there’s the obvious opportunity to convert new fans and sell more tickets, more caps and more t-shirts.  All that’s well and good, but there’s a greater reason than merchandise sales.  Let’s take Texas A&M, for example.  Now that the SEC has a Texas-based school with a huge alumni base in its ranks, viewership for SEC games in the Lone Star State should rise.  That’s added exposure for every SEC school that A&M plays.

Do a little research and you’ll find that schools like George Mason and Boise State actually see a jump in student applications (and alumni donations) after reaching a Final Four or BCS bowl game.  So being seen by a percentage of the 25 million Texas residents could lead to more applications for the SEC’s schools.  More students (or better students) equals more money long-term.  Applicants become students become graduates become donors.  That’s how you keep money flowing into a school decade-in and decade-out.

Just last summer, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany mentioned as one reason for expansion the continued population shift from the Rust Belt and Midwest toward the South.  His league eyed ways to get into the South, but it didn’t pan out for them last year.  Still, the fact that they were looking shows the importance of total population when it comes to conference expansion.

This Category:  Total State Population

Why:  Is it fair to suggest that a school in one corner of a state will reach and influence residents across that entire state?  No.  But it’s just about the best shorthand method we have.  It’s impossible to measure a school’s true sphere of dominant influence.  So we’ll just look at the each school’s home state and tally up the population base that the school could theoretically add to the league.  One last note — schools currently located in SEC states obviously bring no new population to the league.


Rank School Total Population In Home State (Millions)
1t Baylor 25.1
1t Texas 25.1
1t Texas A&M 25.1
1t Texas Tech 25.1
1t TCU 25.1
6 Syracuse 19.3
7t Penn State 12.7
7t Pittsburgh 12.7
9 Cincinnati 11.5
10t Duke 9.5
10t E. Carolina 9.5
10t N. Carolina 9.5
10t NC State 9.5
10t Wake Forest 9.5
15 Rutgers 8.7
16t Virginia 8.0
16t Virginia Tech 8.0
18 Boston College 6.5
19 Notre Dame 6.4
20 Missouri 5.9
21t Maryland 5.7
21t Navy 5.7
23t Oklahoma 3.7
23t Oklahoma State 3.7
25 Connecticut 3.5
26 Iowa State 3.0
27t Kansas 2.8
27t Kansas State 2.8
29 W. Virginia 1.8
30t Clemson 0.0
30t Florida State 0.0
30t Georgia Tech 0.0
30t Louisville 0.0
30t Miami 0.0
30t S. Florida 0.0


* Now, do Baylor or TCU truly influence as many Texans as Texas or Texas A&M?  Of course not.  But the potential is there.

* It’s clear why West Virginia, Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State are considered to be BCS schools that might have to fight to finding a landing spot in a realigned world.  Grab one of those schools and the league doing the grabbing isn’t reaching many new folks.

For comparison, here is how the SEC stacks up:


Rank School Total Population in Home State (Millions)
1 Florida 18.8
2 Georgia 9.6
3t Tennessee 6.3
3t Vanderbilt 6.3
5t Alabama 4.7
5t Auburn 4.7
7 S. Carolina 4.6
8 LSU 4.5
9 Kentucky 4.3
10t Miss. State 2.9
10t Ole Miss 2.9
12 Arkansas 2.8


* After looking at television households in Part 2 and total population in Part 3, it’s a good thing the Mississippi schools and Arkansas are already in the SEC.  If they were on the outside looking in at this point, the business of expansion might leave them searching for a home just like West Virginia and the Kansas schools.

* The average population of an SEC state is 6.5 million people.

Up next in Part 4, we’ll actually take location into consideration.



I completely understand your accessment of population by state as a factor in your overall determination, too bad that isn't acknowledged in the replies. But as an accessment tool, its the least important determinent in the overall equasion. Since you identified major markets it might have been helpful to gather nielson data (as if that were readily available) to show number of viewers in that market that actually watched college football and specifically the ratings for a school in question. A recent article I read indicated that the viewership for Bama football games in B'ham was a whooping 85 share. Having lived in Jax, FL for 20 years I had determined that outside of UF, FSU & UGA (in that order) Bama had the largest alumni within the metro area. So, your attempts are to be commended but the research to be relied upon would need to be much more detailed and thorough.

Jack Edwards
Jack Edwards

Any chance you could include projected population?

Stan Cardwell
Stan Cardwell

i would suggest counting alumni in some way rather than state population alone. a state that imports students then sends them back to their homes states still has tv sets pointed toward their alma mater - likewise parents of these students and spouses. likewise a state school could educate their own but have to send them to other states for work. so state population doesn't increase but footprint of the school does.

i think state population is a little to myopic - undergrads and alumni need to figure in the mix OR at the very least divide the state population by the number of Div 1 programs located in it? How many in Texas? How many in Florida.

Then there's the case of a school like Rutgers. Huge population base, alumni, but kids go to school there so they can buy Giants and Jets tickets when they graduate. The Northeast is basketball and pro football other than PSU and NotreDame


To go along with the other comments, You can not give Ole Miss and Miss State both the 2.9 million, Ut and Vandy splitting the state of Tennessee, or Auburn and Alabama the whole state of Alabama individually. This population post is completely biased numbers. If you wanted to do a true population analysis you would at the very least have to divide each states population by major college programs located in that state.


I appreciate that this is intended solely as a rough guide to the value that a school potentially brings in expansion. If I could, I'd like to add my own interpretation to some of the numbers. Let's take LSU as an example. The state's 4.5 million population is down the list, but LSU is the only top tier college football program in a college football mad state. That 4.5 million base is much stronger than schools from states with multiple BCS schools and schools from states like NJ, NY and Conn where college football is an after thought. Attendance, tradition and success on the football field speak to LSU having a much stronger population base than this measure and the previous would suggest. If LSU were not in the SEC and I were looking just at population base, I would put them ahead of all of the possible expansion candidates for the SEC including A&M and Missouri. Texas takes a greater share of the population in Texas and Missouri shares KC with KU and KSU along with KC and St Louis being pro sports towns first.


There is definitely a "Rutgers Fallacy" effect. I can use Louisville and Kentucky as a statistical example since I used to live in that state and know about the stats of the area. The author gives all of Kentucky's 4.3 million people to UK. However, the population of metro Lousiville is around 1.4 million. So 30% of the state of Kentucky lives in the Louisville metro area. Is UK pulling in that 30% of the state population? Bluegrass Polling conducted a scientific poll in 2005, and found the following results.


Just because a state has more TVs and people, doesn't mean people are tuning in to watch those schools. Let's call it the fallacy of Rutgers - giving them "credit" for NY, Philly, Baltimore and the entire population of the state of NJ is a joke. Take a look at the percentage of graduating seniors within a state that would even consider going to the state school. NJ = VERY LOW. This is the value of schools in states like Kansas, West Virginia, and Iowa.


Interesting that you gave TCU credit for the entire state of Texas and none of the schools at the bottom, (Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, S. Florida ) were given equivalent treatment. Oversight or manipulation?


Exactly. Plus Baylor is in Texas, but very few Texans are Baylor fan.


SO if Missouri joins the SEC, they'd be the 5th largest state with the 7th most households within 200 miles. Columbia is right in the middle of Missouri, so I'd expect they'd have a following across the entire state. Plus, there isn't another division 1 football school in the state.


This comparison should be run against the size of the actual school. The larger schools would have a much greater alumni reach into the state than the smaller schools.


Football: 61% of football fans living in the metro area cheered for Louisville first. 21% of football fans living in the metro area cheered for Kentucky first. There are potentially 800,000 tv sets in the metro Louisville area that the SEC is not currently reaching. Restated, there is at least 20% of the state's population located in Louisville that UK is not reaching for SEC football.

Basketball: For basketball, the breakdown wsa 57% Louisville versus 33% for Kentucky. Closer, but not by much. The main point here is that UK gives you a foothold in the Louisville market, but falls far short of locking up that market for the SEC. (I personally hope that UofL goes to the Big XII, but that is another post.)

I am sure that if you ran the numbers for Miami, Clemson, Florida State, USF, and Georgia Tech, you would find similar results.


He was only giving credit in this area to schools that are currently outside the SEC footprint. Schools within the current footprint don't add to the cumulative population that could be reached.


I'm not sure about some of those teams. Miami is more of a pro sports town than a college sports town and it's probably more of a beach/party town than it is a pro sports town. Miami can get decent attendance for a home game, but nothing special. There are several teams in Miami that attract the attention of the people than the Canes.

I've got a good friend who is an UGA grad and regularly attends games. He's told me multiple times that when UGA and GT hook up in Atlanta that half of the stadium is filled with UGA fans. Along with that, GT's stadium isn't that big in the first place. All of the people I've ever known from Georgia or the Atlanta area tell me that GT fans just aren't that passionate and there just aren't that many of them. There are probably more fans of other SEC schools(even excluding Georgia) in Atlanta than there are GT fans.

I'm not sure about the other schools. I think Clemson and FSU have pretty good fan bases though.


I currently live in Tallahassee and can confirm that. I lived in Greenville, SC about 20 years ago. At that time, Clemson fans were a lot more passionate than USC fans. Not sure if that has changed in the past 20 years or not.

I agree with the Miami assessment. Not sure about Georgia Tech versus Georgia. I am sure that UGA has a large fan base in Atlanta, but I certainly think that GT would add a lot more.


  1. [...] Part 3: Total State Population provided an indication of the number of potential fans, cable households, and future students/alumni/donors living in a school’s home state. [...]

  2. [...] 3: Total State Population [...]

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