Have you ever wondered which fan base in the Southeastern Conference is the most “volatile?” Saturday Down South recently published an article on an Emory Sports Marketing study of fan base volatility. While the first-place team is no surprise, the second-place team might be.
The SEC is known for passionate fans and a tradition of winning (it currently boasts the last seven college football national champions). The Emory Sports Marketing study ranks which of the fan bases in the conference “live & die by their team’s performance on the field.”
The study took into account the entire 2012 season and the first five weeks of the 2013 season. Not surprisingly, LSU ranked first. However, it may be a shock to some to see Ole Miss ranked second on the list. (You can read the details of the study here.)
Researchers collected tweets from SEC towns for several days following each game. Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi, the Emory researchers who conducted the study, looked at fan reaction and measured volatility by, “analyzing the difference of a fan base’s ‘high’ after a win and a ‘low’ after a loss.”
They concluded that LSU’s fan base is the most volatile (scoring a 30.8), followed by Ole Miss (29.8) and Georgia (22.6). Given the rabid enthusiasm of anyone wearing purple and gold, it is not surprising to find LSU sitting atop the list. (Click here for the entire SEC list.)
But, Ole Miss? The same Ole Miss who finished last season with a record of 7-6? What on earth are the Rebels doing in second place?
Something is happening in Oxford, MS, folks. As most SEC fans are well aware, the Rebels rebounded from a 2-10 season in 2011, all the way to a 7-6 record in 2012 – Coach Hugh Freeze’s inaugural year as a head coach in the SEC.
What many may not realize yet is just how enthusiastic, optimistic and loyal the Rebel fan base is. The Emory study proves it. Coming on the heels of last year’s 7-6 season and a top-five recruiting class, Rebel fans’ expectations have been high. The study notes: “We believe that volatility is in part driven by: 1) the expectations of the fan base, and 2) the expressiveness of the fan base.” Ole Miss is off the charts in both categories.
With good reason, Rebels continue to hold high hopes for their team, though Coach Freeze frequently asks that they not have unrealistic expectations that could lead to frustration.
But the study found even in the face of losses, the majority of Ole Miss fans remained supportive. In fact, researchers determined: “The volatility of LSU & UGA fans is driven more by extreme negativity after losses; whereas, the volatility of Ole Miss fans is a function of high levels of happiness after wins.”
Of course Ole Miss fans are thrilled after a win, but how do they act after a loss? Apparently, Rebel Nation is behaving quite well. The Tigers and the Bulldogs, on the other hand, are not quite as distinguished.
LSU fans took to Twitter in droves to vehemently complain about Coach Miles and the team’s performance in losses to Alabama (2012) and Georgia (2013). Likewise, Georgia fans were irate after their team’s loss to Clemson this year.
Supporters of the Rebels, however, have shown a different response to defeat. As Lewis and Tripathy report: “Ole Miss fans did not have overly negative reactions to losses and were very positive after wins.” So what does this mean?
As a sports reporter covering Ole Miss, I can tell you what I believe it means: Something is happening in Oxford, MS.
Fans feel the energy and effort every single time Ole Miss steps onto the gridiron. They see the belief the coaches have in each other, their players and their journey. They feel the camaraderie and love the Ole Miss players have for one another. They are supportive after a loss and positive after a win, but, make no mistake, it’s not because things have been a bed of roses for the Rebels so far this year. A tough schedule and a multitude of injuries have seen to that.
Currently, the team’s record is 5-3, but this follows a murderer’s row portion of the schedule that saw Ole Miss travel on the road for four of its first five contests. The schedule, incidentally, is ranked the toughest in the nation through this point in the season. (Click here to see strength of schedule rankings.)
The Rebels have also suffered a tremendous number of injuries to key players – with many out for the year or missing significant playing time. Against LSU (ranked number six in the nation at the time), the Ole Miss defense was down as many as seven starters. At one point, Coach Freeze asked one of his staff members what players were left to play stinger (weakside linebacker). He was met with the response of, “No one, coach. We’ve got no one left.” Nevertheless, the Rebel players and their fans willed themselves to a 27-24 last-second victory over the Tigers in a game that will not soon be forgotten.
While I’m sure there will be statisticians out there who complain about the validity of the Emory study or argue that the sample was too small, or too biased, the bottom line is Ole Miss is on the rise with the full support of Rebel Nation – win or lose.
Rebel fans don’t need a fancy study to tell them that.