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With college football media days kicking off across the country this week, it’s time to switch to analysis mode. And together with our friend Brett Ciancia from Pick Six Previews, we developed a new type of efficiency ranking – a coefficient of income that is collected outside the field and the performance generated on it.
Have you ever wondered which college football programs are getting the best bang for your buck? Well, we have developed and calculated an analysis that evaluates exactly that. Certainly not that it’s the only way. But I think it’s fair given the data we have to process.
The method we chose was to compare two rankings – one for the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis gross sales numbers, which averages the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons; the other for the Ciancia Game Grader formula that combines the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
For performance in the field, we could have used any number of metrics, including simple won-lost records. But that would not have taken into account the tight deadlines. Game grader does it. It’s an aggregate metric that combines several key game stats to best reflect a team’s effectiveness, both game-to-game and, in this case, over the past two seasons.
Likewise, we could have chosen any number of revenue numbers to evaluate how much money a program has to spend each year. We opted for the EADA figures because they ask schools to provide apple-to-apple figures on the gross income of their football programs. These include anything but the annual conference payouts from the various broadcast media contracts, which are not included.
First I gave Brett my EADA income ranking and he averaged the rankings for each of the three seasons. We decided to use an earnings window a little earlier than that of the performance, in order to more logically follow the progress from collecting the money to using it. And also because no sales figures are yet available for the 2020-21 financial year; they won’t be published until next spring.
Brett then averaged his overall game grader ranking for each of the last two seasons. When we finished, we had two leaderboards – one for sales and one for performance. Then we subtracted the game grader ranking from the EADA sales ranking and arrived at a positive or negative value. The more positive the number, the more efficiently the program used its money. The more negative the number, the less efficient they were.
This is the most fun type of project to calculate because you are unsure of the results but you have educated guesses. I knew, for example, that as long as I was making the EADA numbers, Texas was the unbeatable sales leader, while the Longhorns haven’t exactly stepped between the lines lately.
So, without further delay, here are the country’s 10 most efficient power five programs that have achieved the most with the least:
Well, I would like to say right away that West Virginia has always been the only outlier when reporting income to EADA. They’re consistently at the bottom of gross sales below the P5 and I’m not sure what the caveat could be. But when we report the negative, we have to join the positive. We can just report the numbers that WVU provides, add the asterisk, and move on.
Otherwise, I feel like the rest of the top 10 most efficient ones are pretty much accurate. For example, I would have guessed that Matt Campbell’s Iowa State Cyclones would be in somewhere, and that’s them (# 6). I would have expected Clemson to be in 5th place because the performance of Dabo Swinney’s Tigers consistently achieved a healthy, but not unheard of annual sales reserve. Clemson is like a small pro franchise with a relatively modest alumni base that has consistently excelled and hosted CFP tournaments.
I wouldn’t have guessed Missouri or Mississippi State would be in the top 3. But you are talking about a traditional basketball school in Mizzou without an enthusiastic football fan base that has prevailed against the SEC competition there; and another of those relative mom-n-pop operations in the state of Mississippi with probably the least urban, affluent, or sizeable fan base in the league.
Pitt surprised me a little too, but probably shouldn’t have. His 10th place is a testament to how competitive Pat Narduzzi’s program was with relatively modest resources and with no stadium on campus.
And now here are the bottom 10 in reverse order; in other words, the least efficient P5 programs that do the least with the largest budgets:
Here, too, there are certain schools that were taken for granted. Tennessee (# 63) has consistently done less with a huge stadium and insane fan base than any other program in the nation for most of the past decade, let alone the last two seasons. Texas (56th place) has, as already mentioned, nowhere near exhausted the potential that its prosperity suggests. And neither Nebraska (# 62) nor Michigan (# 57) are shockers. Both were chronic underachievers with massive budgets.
I was surprised Arkansas was at the bottom of 65th place, but I think it’s a case of Out of Sight, Out of Mind. The Hogs have been so off the radar lately that I honestly didn’t know what a pointless case they’d been with a couple of anonymous coaches since Brett Bielema left.
Anyway, for those who want to totally freak out, here is the full list:
As you can see, Penn State at # 48 isn’t exactly an efficiency model. James Franklin’s program has an overall grade of -9, which ties it to Kansas.
But you should also note that there isn’t much of a difference between overall grades from the middle 30 or so to # 19 Iowa (+7). It’s also worth noting that the Hawkeyes have the highest efficiency rank in the Big Ten. Then you have to drift 11 more spots to find the next conference member – # 30 Ohio State. And remember, this doesn’t include the annual $ 54 million payout for conference media rights per school. Not a terribly frugal group, is it?
More PennLive sports coverage:
• How Bucks added tough guys around Giannis instead of another superstar, is a role model for Sixers.
• Will the US basketball team win gold in Tokyo? In the midst of the globalized game, does it really still matter?
• A conversation with Phil Steele who predicts Penn State will be the most improved team in all of college football.