Master of Science in Sport Management Online

Fan Interest and College Sports

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the NCAA, earns approximately $797 million a year, including $702 million from its television rights deals. However, according to, close to 29 million Americans preferred to attend a college sports event last year. Discover what attracts fans of all games to college sports.

College Sports Celebrate a Rich Tradition

Image via Flickr by Sweet Carolina Photography

Philadelphia sports blogger Joe “Rev. Paul Revere” Boland wrote in The Sports Fan Journal that one of the most common arguments fans use to explain their love for college sports is that traditions and ties to schools outweigh matters related to professional competitions.

In his book “Football: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture,” Edward J. Reilly recalls that Princeton played Rutgers on November 6, 1869, in an event credited as the first American football game. That game came more than 50 years before the formation of the American Professional Football Conference, which would later become the National Football League, the NFL. Similarly, the University of Iowa and University of Chicago played the first college basketball game in the United States in January 18, 1896, 53 years before the formation of the National Basketball Association, or NBA.

College Sports Focus on Teams, Not Players

In an article for USA Today, Pat Curran commented about the clout star athletes have in the professional sporting arena, a perception which can often come at the expense of the team. While sport management master’s degree graduates may not anticipate they could lose their jobs through no fault of their own, history has examples of coaching and management staff who were fired from professional sporting teams following tension with star players. “Star players can essentially hold franchises hostage, driving coaches out of town and influencing personnel decisions,” he noted.

College athletes rarely have so much influence, something Curran feels should be admired. The stability that comes from a team which is more than a vehicle for its stars can be attractive to sporting fans.

College Sports Teams Are Made Up of Local Athletes

For some college sports fans fiercely loyal to their hometown, the local representation of its college sports teams gives them the edge.

A college sports team is traditionally comprised entirely of students from the local area, according to Dillon Friday, responding to The Sports Fan Journal’s Question of the Day. In comparison, sports teams in national leagues often recruit talented players from outside the local area to bolster their squads.

“People cheer for the kid who grew up down the road more than the free agent from Miami,” Friday explained.

“Continuing to cheer for your original hometown teams is one way of displaying the old-fashioned value of allegiance,” added Frank Deford. “You must root where your roots were laid down.”

It can be more challenging to pledge allegiance to a team whose players have no connection to the hometown they represent. College sports fans do not face such challenges.

Thanks to the passion of its ardent supporters and the business deals made because of that support, sports at the college level continue to thrive.