How much value does A&M bring to the SEC? More than you might think.
Everyone believes Texas is the crown jewel in conference realignment; however, that might not be the case. According to a 2006 report by the Wall Street Journal, Texas A&M produced higher ratings than the Texas Longhorns.
According to the Journal, “In the nine bowl appearances that the Journal measured, the Longhorns generated a rating more than 7 percent below average despite having opponents that included ratings darlings such as Michigan, Penn State and Oregon. By this score, the Longhorns aren’t even the most popular team in Texas; that honor goes to Texas A&M, which ranked just behind USC in generating viewership.”
The numbers from the Journal:
1. University of Oregon
Ratings differential: +16 percent
2. University of Washington
Ratings differential: +10.6
3. University of Michigan
Ratings differential: +8.1
4. University of Southern California
Ratings differential: +6.7
5. Texas A&M University
Ratings differential: +6.4
6. Pennsylvania State University
Ratings differential: +3.3
7. University of Notre Dame
Ratings differential: +3.1
8. Ohio State University
Ratings differential: +2.4
9. University of Florida
Ratings differential: +1.7
10. University of Alabama
Ratings differential: +0.6
18. (tie) University of Texas
Ratings differential: -7.1
18. (tie) University of Miami
Ratings differential: -7.1
The WSJ explained the methodology: “Which college football teams draw the biggest national TV audiences? To find out, The Wall Street Journal checked the Nielsen ratings for 15 bowls over at least 10 years. For schools that showed up at least five times, it compared the rating for each game they played with the average for that particular bowl. Rankings are based on ratings differential — the percentage by which TV viewership differed from the average for those bowl games.”
While these numbers are from a story published in 2006, it provides one of the few comprehensive views of ratings and football teams. However, some caution should be employed when using this as a guide. A quick analysis of recent bowl games showed Texas A&M underperforming the 8-year average for bowl games it participated in. Texas A&M played in the 2009 Independence Bowl, 2007 Alamo Bowl, 2006 Holiday Bowl and 2005 Cotton Bowl (source: BCSFootball.org). Each year the team underperformed the average for the bowl.
The 2007/2008 cycle Alamo Bowl pitting Texas A&M against Penn State yielded a 2.67 rating. The Alamo Bowl average was 4.63. When Texas played Iowa in the 2006/2007 cycle Alamo Bowl, the Longhorns outperformed the average with a 5.99 rating.
It would appear in the data available from BCSFootball.org that Texas has in general performed very well including a 21.7 Rose Bowl rating against USC for the national championship. When Texas was in the Rose Bowl against Michigan, it underperformed the Rose Bowl average of 13.72 when it posted a 12.4.
One major thing to consider from the Wall Street Journal study is that during many of the years studied, Texas had not fully reestablished itself as a national power, and Texas A&M had not yet fully experienced the Dennis Franchione disaster. With Texas’ return to prominence, it appears to have surged in ratings. With A&M’s troubles, it appears to have suffered a decline in interest.
It would be unwise to ignore the Wall Street Journal’s numbers. While an imperfect measure, this provides one of the most interesting reasons why the SEC has pursued the Texas A&M Aggies.