Believe it or not, it’s not my intention to troll or piss people off. This column strives to remain a sacred space to discuss the unimportant goings on of college sports with an emphasis on our hometown Frogs. With still multiple months of college baseball remaining, I’ll refrain from hopping headlong into the diamond just yet and ask an honest question brought to my attention earlier this week. Who cares?
I’ve been following, but only lightly watching, the progression of March Madness as I’m sure most do this time of year. None of my regular readers would be surprised from my joy at the first-round banishment of second-seeded Ohio State by Oral Roberts. In another surprising twist, UNT — the only team from our area to earn an invitation — surprised fourth-seeded Purdue to earn a round of 32 appearance before losing to Villanova, who’ll take on Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen. Even Texas Southern managed to survive a play-in contest to make an appearance in the opening round only to be routed by first-seed Michigan. In perhaps the most talked about game in our great state, Abilene Christian might prove themselves the dunce cap on Shaka Smart’s tenure at Texas as the Wildcats defeated the Longhorns by a single point. Texas Tech — who played for a national championship only two years ago — advanced past the Utah State Aggies only to be dismissed back to their dust bowl by the Arkansas Razorbacks. A dear Red Raider frenemy of mine posted shortly after Lubbock’s demise that he was moving on to baseball season as many are this week. A regular troll to his musings asserted that no one really cares about basketball, or baseball, and that we were all just waiting for football season. While I agreed on the surface with the statement, it inspired me to dig a little into the numbers. All sports have a place in our hearts and fandom for various reasons, but what do we really care about?
The aforementioned question isn’t a difficult one at face value. Texans care about football. Pigskin is life, culture, religion, and family here in the Lone Star State. But how do you measure how much someone cares? Well, in the sports world, it’s typically quantified by showing up to watch or dollars spent. Bear in mind that I’m highly experienced in figure analysis, exemplified by a hard-earned C+ in elementary statistics as a TCU undergrad. The following numbers were gathered based on TCU’s self-reported attendance and revenue numbers from annual reports and game summaries from the 2019 fall football season, 2019 baseball season, and 18-19 basketball season, as they represent the most recent complete reports before the sports world imploded in pandemic fallout.
Two factors were considered in evaluating the Who Cares Most attendance award: raw numbers and percentage of available capacity. For the 2019 football season, which wasn’t particularly successful for the Frogs, Gary Patterson’s purple people showed up to the tune of 257,288 attendees across six home kickoffs. In something that should be no surprise to anyone, the most packed game was against the Texas Longhorns. Second place belonged to Jim Schlossnagle’s baseball team, who lassoed 118,341 in-person fans across 27 home games in 2019. Last place was Jamie Dixon’s basketballers, who logged a competitive season appearing against UT in the NIT semifinals. Dixon and company played in front of 111,554 fans that season during 17 home tips. Advantage in raw numbers clearly belongs to football, who more than doubled baseball’s attendance despite playing fewer than a quarter of their games. “What about stadium size?” someone screams from the back, making a valid point. Amon G. Carter’s theoretical capacity is 47,000 Frog fanatics, while Lupton stadium maxes out at a modest 4,500 with some wiggle room on the lawn bordering the outfield fences. Basketball’s home at Schollmaier Arena tops out with 8,500 basketball boosters. The most efficient sport with their home space was baseball, who averaged an impressive 97% filled throughout their home season. This figure is somewhat skewed by their overflow space, with baseball meeting or exceeding their theoretical capacity on 10 different occasions. Football finished second in this subcategory packing the Carter to 88% full on average. Basketball — just like their raw attendance — was last, averaging only 77% full after accounting for the entire season.
Opponents were influential for individual game attendance. Baseball — similar to football — attracted their largest single attendance figure when the Longhorns came to town, but most fans in attendance across a three-game series came against Baylor. Basketball’s best attendance favored perennial power Kansas, with UT slightly behind at second-most. Football fans, as discussed before, favored watching Texas as well, but the Bears brought TCU faithful in comparably impressive amounts. David Roditi’s men’s tennis program garners an honorable mention for securing multiple awards for best home attendance. The results from this attendance analysis are inconclusive, so allow me to move on to the second portion, which isn’t.
Hold on to your rally caps, baseball fans, because I’m probably about to bean you with a fastball. Frog football yields more than tenfold the revenue from ticket sales as baseball despite only 55% greater gross attendance for their respective seasons. The final figures in 2019 reported slightly less than $10 million in ticket sales for Patterson’s program, while Sclossnagle’s boys raked in just shy of $900,000. Dixon’s dribblers middled the two but weren’t even close to football, netting $1.4 million in total. In 2018-19 — the most recent period where all sports played full non-Covid seasons — football accounted for more than 81% of all ticket revenue when factoring in every sport TCU competes in. I’m not completely sure these figures are consistent throughout every major university, but I’d bet much more on it than I would on my NCAA tournament bracket. So is it true that no one cares about baseball or basketball? No, we just care at least two or maybe even 10 times more about football.