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A mixed effort from Nate Silver

FiveThirtyEight statistical guru Nate Silver, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, makes the case for the New York Times today that Rutgers is the most popular college football program in New York City. Hey, that sounds familiar - this blog has already cited Google Insights for Search (twice, actually) and CommonCensus* as objective metrics of RU's support. Seeing those metrics gain wider awareness and acceptance can only be a good thing for Rutgers athletics. As Silver demonstrates, while New York City has less fans per capita than other markets, it's still the largest college football market in the country. RU's support is trending upward, and the demographic gap between younger RU supports and elderly Notre Dame fans will only swing further in our favor over time. Take into account the wealth of the NYC market, and it's little wonder why RU is currently sitting in the catbird's seat.

As good as those aspects may be, Silver's post however suffers from a fatal flaw which renders his full analysis almost completely worthy of dismissal. Sorry folks. If you're even remotely familiar with On the Banks, you'll know that this blog's pet issue is why the Office of Postsecondary Education's Equity in Athletics cutting tool is infinitely inferior to the NCAA's Revenue and Expense reports. The problem with citing the equity figures is that they are highly inaccurate. In fact, the NCAA is literally on the record as dismissing them as meaningless.

The DOE mainly cares about Title IX compliance. They don't want a university spending excessively more on men than women or something along those lines, and don't necessarily care where the money comes from. As such, the OPE revenue figures make no distinction between whether revenue is generated, or is a subsidy from university general funds. According the OPE, Rutgers breaks even on athletics. According the NCAA's revenue and expense reports, Rutgers subsidizes athletics more than most other public universities (as private schools are not subject to FOIA laws.) Unfortunately, for that reason, there really isn't any good way to compare college athletic revenue. While Rutgers is indeed the key to college football in New York City, the rest of Silver's analysis (based on analyzing OPE revenue figures) cannot be taken seriously.

*CommonCensus is probably only useful for intra-market analysis. Comparing different regions with it is folly, which is another fatal flaw with Silver's argument.