Newswise — ANN ARBOR—Imagine if the regular season were packed with the same white-knuckle matches that college football fans enjoyed during this year’s bowl season.
Two sports economists have created a mock conference schedule that does exactly that. The new football schedule eliminates boring regular season games and delivers college football fans the most exciting matches all season long, by pitting only evenly matched teams—the types of showdowns typical in bowl games.
To do this, sports economists from the University of Michigan and University of Idaho statistically analyzed won-loss records, which showed the current conferences pit too many good teams against bad ones. This makes for boring games and that’s not what fans want, says Stefan Szymanski, professor at the U-M School of Kinesiology.
To produce more exciting games, Szymanski and colleague Jason Winfree of the University of Idaho ran various simulations to pit the best of the best and the worst of the worst against each other in nine, 13-team mock "ultimate" college football conferences of equally matched teams.
"The underlying claim is that the overwhelming fact of college sports, and all major sports, is that people want to see the best play against the best," Szymanski said. "That is definitely not happening now in college football. This (conference alignment) would produce better matchups and more exciting games."
The result? More exciting games and up to a 5 percent increase in the audience for college football. An increase of 5 percent could mean millions in revenue, Szymanski said.
The larger audience happens if on-the-fence fans who’d pass on a potentially one-sided game between teams of uneven quality decide to watch a game between teams of the same caliber—in hopes of seeing a thrilling, gridiron nail-biter.
According to Szymanski, these results hold true even though there would be fewer rivalry games—although attempts could be made to preserve those rivalries.
Szymanski said that roughly 90 teams have jumped conferences since 2010—with good reason.
"That's enormous," he said. "It's happening because teams are aligning themselves with better matchups."
And because teams are seeking bigger audiences and television revenue. But conference-jumping means teams are already moving toward aligning themselves with like-quality teams, he said.
The findings appear in the working paper, "College football scheduling."
Table of ultimate conferences: http://bit.ly/1cdHo85
To access the paper: http://bit.ly/1hkYZdG
Stefan Szymanski: www.kines.umich.edu/profile/stefan-szymanski-phd
Jason Winfree: www.uidaho.edu/cals/aers/directory/faculty/jasonwinfree
U-M School of Kinesiology: www.kines.umich.edu