The New York Times Upshot blog has been doing stellar work with cool graphics and maps. Today they’re out with a map of football fandom (using Facebook likes by zip code).
If you squint while looking at the college football map, you might even think you’re looking at a state map. In the Southeast, strong programs like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana State and Oklahoma dominate their states — and stop right at the border.
But there are enough exceptions to make this quite different from the state maps we all grew up learning. The Minnesota Golden Gophers have been so mediocre for so long — failing to finish in the top 15 nationwide since the Kennedy administration — that fans have moved their support to the Wisconsin Badgers. And Nebraska! They do love their Cornhuskers across much of the Great Plains.
One thing that’s striking about Arkansas is how thoroughly one team dominates. There are non-Tide enclaves in Alabama (the Upshot uses a nice Game of Thrones reference to refer to the small number of zip codes that prefer Auburn in the state: “Iron Island”). Oklahoma has Oklahoma State, Kentucky has Louisville, Mississippi is a house divided between State and Ole Miss, etc. In Arkansas it’s all about the Hogs. The relatively dark shade represents a high percentage of fans who liked the team on Facebook. Looks like by that measure, Arkansas fandom is among the most widespread among the population as any state in the country, although trailing Bret Bielema‘s old stomping grounds, according to the Upshot:
The most consistently loyal fans in America live in Wisconsin. More than 87 percent of fans in some Wisconsin ZIP codes support the Badgers, a level that isn’t reached anywhere else, our estimates show.
Most widespread support? Like the Upshot, I would have guessed Notre Dame, but Texas takes it. Meanwhile, the mighty Ducks of Oregon have fans far and wide. Who knew?
One of our favorite parts of this project is that we didn’t know what the results would be. If you’d asked us which team had the largest and farthest-flung following, we probably would have guessed Notre Dame. But Texas has the most ZIP codes, more than 7 percent of the nation’s, followed by Penn State and Florida. And Oregon has the most geographically widespread following. Despite the Ducks’ lack of a national title, they have been good — and exciting — for years, and their Nike-designed uniforms apparently add some panache. Overall, Duck Nation can claim over 10% of college football fans in more ZIP codes than any other team.
Lots more at the Upshot, including interactive graphics that allow you to zoom in on individual areas. Go kill some time.