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OREGON DUCKS, NIELSEN MAGNET

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Phil Knight is dancing in his Nikes somewhere atop his massive piles of cash: the most powerful pull in all of college football, tv-wise...is the Oregon Ducks? The guys with the Daffy DuckDonald Duck ripoff mascot and the Gatorade puke unis? Yes, the same ones, according to a Wall Street Journal article (click here for the computer gumming pdf) measuring team impact on television ratings. Oregon pulled a 16% ratings differential on bowl games they participated in, the highest of all bowl-eligible teams in the study's sample, which seems cracked to the point of cat-food eating delirium to us, gut-wise, but...eppur si muove!

Holiday Bowl bitches, but kings of the small screen.

The interesting tack we find in this is that Notre Dame, with its own television contract and non-competitive status in games, comes in at number 7 behind less ballyhooed teams like Washington and Texas A&M. Note: non-competitive status meaning they're always the prime draw on NBC, and not meaning OMG Notre Dame sux. Heading off that line at the pass, there--ed.We're sure the Jesuitical minds of ND Nation and Blue-Gray Sky will get to work scissoring the methodology of the study up momentarily, but our instinct says that the prominence of Northwestern teams remains largely a product of geography.

Being the only teams in large swaths of competition-free territory creates the potential for a large tv following, tuning in to watch games rather than drive the hundreds of miles it takes to get to the game. Notre Dame fans, by comparsion, have a relatively easy commute from the locales fo their core Midwestern fanbase: Chicago, the burbs of Ohio, Indianapolis, et al.

It's similar to the Superstation effect. The Cubs and Braves both became the unofficial teams of the Southeastern United States in the 1980s for a good reason: the superstations WGN and TBS were the only show in town, and baseball-hungry fans flocked to the product. Hence a Tennessee boy having an apparently incongrous Andre Dawson man-crush in seventh grade and investigating getting an ill-advised geri-curl, which would have only sunk him further into the depths of dork hell...at any rate, that could be what's happening with the strong tv showings by Northwestern teams in the tv market.

We narrowly escaped a bad hair decision, no thanks to WGN.

Another piece of data in our ongoing effort to determine if the statement "Notre Dame being good is good for college football" contains anything resembling truth. For the record, given early evidence, we suspect that the Notre Dame being good is good for Notre Dame, but doesn't affect the college multiverse as a whole. (And if you know what a multiverse is, you've just outed yourself as someone who, rather than pursuing sex with every waking moment of your adolescent life, read comic books instead. Go hold yourself in the corner and seek the comfort of your Silver Surfer collectible figures for a moment. )

College football on the whole as a loosely organized franchise has grown 3% in popularity since 1985, compared to 6% for NASCAR and 9% for pro football...which ain't half bad for a sport with little central organizing authority and no real coordinated marketing to speak of at all. (Harris Poll data via BG's Blog O'Stuff and Yay! Sports NCAA.) This comes in a period of time when Notre Dame experienced a real overall decline following the '88 season; in fact, the biggest jump in popularity over this period came in 2004 and in 2005, when popularity leaped 2 points each year. There's much more of an argument to be made here that what's good for USC is good for college football, but it is just one study. We'll keep picking away at the argument over the offseason since...well...we don't have shit else to do frankly besides those pesky things like work and talking to our loved ones.

Other shockers:

--No one gives a shit about Miami football, at least on television. They earn a -7.1 rating on the study, actually repelling swing viewers from watching bowl games. Who would have imagined that an academically lax, expensive private school with history of scandalous thugged-out behavior by their football team wouldn't attract viewers?

--{{Giggle}}} Florida is the only Sunshine State team with a positive rating, earning a +1.7 rating, which is probably a testament to both the draw of Steve Spurrier's larger-than-life personality and to the peripatetic alumni of UF, who we swear you'll find everywhere from drinking grain alcohol in jean shorts in a Dubai airport lounge to listening to Molly Hatchet and drinking Miller High Life at Everest base camp. FSU, in contrast, gets this glowing commentary on their -4.7 effect on ratings:

Seminoles may not live down the ’93 Orange Bowl. Ratings were 67% below norm.

Tallahassee? Not a center of civilization as we know it? We just dropped our rocks glass to the floor, spilling our morning inspiration. Fortunately, the carpet in the EDSBS cave/bunker is scotch/coffee colored for just such emergencies.

Bobby Bowden: actively repelling viewers from watching bowl games.

--And on the heels of bitching about the Northeast's general lack of college football lust, we get a strange contraindication from the study. Syracuse earns a -21% rating, repelling viewers like Mario Lopez in ESPN Hollywood, while Penn State, the closest thing the region has to a real draw, is in CSI territory with a +3.3% rating. Cross the Delaware river and the interest just dies, though Syracuse sucking in general could have much to do with it. This doesn't bode well for one of this year's covert memes, "Rutgers' resurgence will turn the Northeast into a football hotbed," either.