54% of U.S. residents are college football fans. This includes 12% who watch college football a great deal, 10% who enjoy a good amount of it, and 32% who say they follow it a little. 46% do not watch college football at all.
Men, residents who earn $50,000 or more annually, and those in the Midwest, West, and South are those who are most likely to be college football fans.
Americans, however, are more inclined to be professional football fans than college football fans. More than two-thirds of U.S. residents — 68% — tune into the NFL at least a little bit. This includes 20% who watch the sport a great deal, 16% who follow it a good amount, and 32% who catch it a little. 32% do not watch it all.
Although there is little difference among geographic regions, men and Americans younger than 45 years old are more likely to be professional football fans.
Is there an overlap in the proportion of U.S. residents who watch both professional football and college football? Yes. Nearly half of Americans — 49% — watch both NFL and college football. The proportion who watches just professional football outnumbers those who tune into just college football. Nearly one in five — 19% — check out only the pros tossing the pigskin around while only 5% follow just college teams. More than one in four residents — 27% — do not watch either professional or college football.
**Editor’s note—in the interest of full disclosure, in addition to being part of the Marist Poll team, the author is also on the faculty of the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas.
No one is asking, “How ‘bout them Cowboys?” They’re 1-2.
Baseball fans are talking about a Red October in Arlington since the Texas Rangers have clinched only their third divisional championship in franchise history.
But, this is Texas where there are really just two sports that really count: football and spring football.
And with America’s Team in the same shape as America’s economy, the talk turns to college and high school football.
College football may be the free farm system of the NFL, but it’s big business and serious stuff in the Lone Star State.
The University of Texas annual $120 million sports budget is fueled by ticket sales, television contracts, and t-shirts (merchandise licensing). Now UT is negotiating for its own cable television network.
It’s more than “win one for the Gipper.” Football is also an integral part of drawing back well-heeled alumni to sustain other on-campus endeavors.
That’s one of the reasons why you will see construction cranes today building a new $78 million football stadium and high-rise hotel for the University of North Texas.
UNT is located in Denton 30 miles north of Dallas and Fort Worth. UNT is the fourth largest university in the state with an enrollment of some 37,000 students.
UNT is NOT a college football power house and never has been. It can’t compete with UT, but it must compete with the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Mavericks, TCU, and SMU for the north Texas entertainment dollars. And, it competes for those about as well as its teams do on the field.
Yet it continues to play. It’s too important not to… especially if you want to sustain high enrollments, land high dollar research grants, and gain national prestige.
The biggest name to ever come out of the football program was a defensive lineman you may have heard of—“Mean Joe” Green. He went from the North Texas Eagles to the Pittsburgh Steelers. You’ll find a bust of him in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton.
Despite Mean Joe, UNT has not been known for its football program, but for its “One O’Clock Lab Band” which has performed for presidents, has accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, and produced members for the Stan Kenton and Woody Herman bands.
But, this is Texas and football is king. That’s why a few weeks ago the UNT football team traveled to Clemson to become cannon fodder for a national football powerhouse — for half the gate, a share of the ESPN television revenue, and national exposure for a program desperately wanting to break into the big time.
What is college football? It’s an American tradition. But, it’s also in a fight for survival where colleges and universities find themselves dealing with the same reality taking place in the private sector where the big corporations get bigger, the smaller ones fight to stay alive, and those that can’t go out of business.
It’s also like the international arms race. There are the superpowers who possess nuclear weapons (Divison I football programs and their Heisman candidates), and then there are the smaller emerging Third World countries who want to compete with the big boys.
And for some of us who just enjoy sports, it keeps us occupied between the World Series and when pitchers and catchers report again in February.