Vol Fans Named No. 2 Fan Base in College Football

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    Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

    Vol fans are known for their passion and unwavering loyalty. And according to research done by an Emory University professor, Tennessee’s fans are the best in the SEC and the second-best in all of college football.

    Michael Lewis, a professor who does sports analytical research for Emory University, did some research to figure out which fan bases are the best in college football. And according to his methodology, Vol fans are the second-best fans in the country. Only Texas fans out-rank Vol fans according to Lewis.

    So how does one quantify what makes a fan base the best? According to Lewis, if you approach fandom and the college football team like a brand, it makes it easier to measure.

    “I start from the notion that college sports teams can be viewed as brands,” Lewis writes. “While sports fandom is intense, conceptually it isn’t that different from consumer loyalty to brands in categories ranging from cars to soft drinks. When we think of the team as a brand, we can use theory and methods used in industry and academia to take an analytical look at fandom across schools.”

    Lewis goes on to state that he relies on three different measures of brand strength. “Revenue premium” is the first metric, return on investment is the second, and the third deals with the relative football revenues reported by each school.

    After all his calculations, Texas came out on top. But the Vols were right behind them.

    “Tennessee has struggled in recent years,” Lewis writes, “but they deliver financial results and amazing attendance.”

    Last season, Tennessee still finished in the top 10 in average attendance per home game despite suffering through the worst season in program history. Tennessee averaged 95,779 fans per home game last year. Tennessee averaged just over 100,000 fans per home game in the two years prior to 2017.

    Vol fans have supported their team, but their return on investment has been very low. Tennessee has gone just 17-24 in SEC games played at Neyland Stadium over the last decade, and the team overall has earned a 62-63 record over the last 10 years.

    Though their team hasn’t given them much reason to cheer over the last decade, Vol fans are still at the top of college football fan bases. And the research is there to back it up.

    Here are the top 10 fan bases in college football as determined by the research of Michael Lewis:

    1. Texas
    2. Tennessee
    3. Notre Dame
    4. LSU
    5. Oklahoma
    6. Georgia
    7. Michigan
    8. Oregon
    9. Auburn
    10. Florida