Notre Dame remains nation's favorite college football team
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame may not be the country's best performing college football team, but they are No. 1 in the hearts of U.S. adults. They have been America's favorite college football team every year since The Harris Poll(R) first started asking this question in 1997 (with the exception of 2000 and 2001 as Harris Interactive(R) did not poll on this topic during these years).
Notre Dame is followed by Ohio State, which for the first time unseats Florida State for the No. 2 spot, while Florida State (which has been No. 2 for the past seven years) drops precipitously out of the top 10.
On-field performance typically plays a role in a team's showing in the "favorites" rankings, but this year the two are only loosely correlated. Only a handful of teams in the top 10 are currently ranked in the top 25 in the AP Poll, the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll or the BCS standings.
Perhaps due to allegiance to alumni or a given state, college football appears to have a more stable fan base than professional football, despite the changing fortunes of a given team. While Notre Dame and Penn State continue to struggle to regain national prominence on the field, their fan support remains firm.
Oklahoma, which has performed as well as any other top college football program over the past few years, actually falls out of the top 10 this year, lending credence to the gap between popularity and performance.
Also of note, while the Big 10 always boasts a few fan favorites, this year its popularity has surged with three teams out of the top five — Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State — and four out of the top 10 when including Wisconsin.
By contrast, this year, the state of Florida has its worst showing ever. For the first time, no Floridian college football team (University of Florida, Florida State or Miami) holds even one spot in the top 10.
These are some of the results of an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive between Oct. 20 and 25, 2004, among a nationwide cross section of 2,114 U.S. adults of whom 789 say they follow college football.
While interest in college football was on the rise in the late 1990s, this year it holds steady as 35 percent of U.S. adults report following college football, virtually the same as the last two years. Its popularity is highest among men and southerners.
ADULTS WHO FOLLOW COLLEGE FOOTBALL
"Do you follow college football, or not?"
Base: All adults
MOST POPULAR COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAMS
1 Notre Dame
2 Ohio State
5 Penn State