CFB Program “Prestige” Scoring Model

Nick Bennett
4 min readOct 19, 2020

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All Conferences and FBS teams will play some form of a fall football schedule this season. So now all fans will be back to rooting, discussing, and bragging about their favorite teams by the beginning of November. During the season, college football discussions normally stay within the confines of on-field results for the specific individual season. However, the ensuing bowl and off-seasons see a much different discussion at play. Many fans argue about the power of their team’s football program, brand and their overall status within their own conference and Division 1 overall.

Discussions range from a variety of subjects that revolve around whether a program is better than another. For example, when the “coaching carousel” begins, sports media personalities and pundits hold entire segments discussing whether a potential candidate should accept a particular job based on whether the perception of that school, conference, state, etc. is better than their current school. At the same time, fans are asking questions like “How does a mid-level Big Ten school compare to a mid-to-lower tier SEC school?” or “Which of the coaching opportunities are considered the best among the Power Five or Group of Five schools?”.

To answer these questions, and thanks to some free time in the pandemic, I have quantified an overall College Football Program Score for all of the 130 FBS schools using a combination of significant standalone variables and more that were combined within multiple linear regression equations under a chosen subject/category. The final score is supposed to act as a “Prestige Score” similar to what was found in the EA Sports NCAA Football games.

Screenshot from NCAA Football 13

In my research, I found that ESPN (2009, 2019) and Sports Illustrated (2017) each have featured an article series that compared FBS football programs based on a determined score or tier level. Navigate Research, a Chicago-based data and analytics firm specializing in sports and entertainment properties, recently produced a Top 10 list of FBS programs in terms of their ‘Brand Equity’. PickSixPreviews also distributed a Brand Score for the Power Five college football programs in 2016 based on the results of a poll amongst some of the top high school recruits at the time.

However, none of these previous lists factor in as many off-the-field variables as I do, and I hope that makes my score more viable because of it.

As a brief outline to my score system, I have finalized the score approach below out of a possible 600 total points. The six categories use statistics from the 2009 through 2018 seasons, which is the latest season where all the variables are are available to the public —

Football Revenue Score — 100 Points Possible

This variable represents the ten-year average amount of revenue each of the FBS collegiate athletics department earned from football from the 2009–2018 seasons.

National Championships Score — 100 Points Possible

  • 100 Points for the most national championship claims by an individual school.
  • 0 Points for zero national championship claims by the individual school.

Revenue Share Score — 100 Points Possible

This metric represents the five-year averages of Revenue Distribution (in Millions) each school received from their conference from the 2014 through 2018 football seasons, as determined from each conference’s tax forms.

Program Score — 100 Points Possible

This metric represents a comprehensive score that attempts to measure how much a school is willing to “spend to win” by looking at variables that capture how much money a school spends on their program. Examples include Recruiting Expenses, Head Coach Salary, Assistant Coach Salaries, Stadium Capacity, etc.

On-Field Score — 100 Points Possible

This metric is composed of variables that measures a school’s on-field performance over the last ten seasons, ranging from their Total Win-Loss Record, Conference Championships, Bowl Performance and how many players they send to the NFL through the draft.

Brand Score — 100 Points Possible

This metric is composed of variables designed to measure the college football audience’s awareness of their program, including national reach through Social Media, National Broadcasts and their program’s reputation through the amount of money apparel companies spend to sponsor them and how many times they are voted into the Preseason Top 25.

Finally, after summing together the total score composed of the six categories above (600 Max), the scores were re-inserted into a “Final” Regression Equation to determine the specific variables that were significant towards determining a “Final” Total Score.

Please again keep in mind that most of these variables are determined with statistics over the past five or ten years, to maintain each program’s score based on what I consider ‘immediate’ relevancy, i.e. why the model’s focus in on a ten-year period.

Throughout this college football season, I will continue to post about my score results on a variety of subjects, including comparing schools, conferences, rivalries, etc. Below are links to the posts so far, as well as future subjects I will be addressing (in no particular order) —

In addition, please follow my GitHub page for this project. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting the cleaned data for anyone that would like to access the information I used or use it to make a new score for themselves. I will also post a more specific look at the regression equations that composed the six individual categorical scores, as well as the final Significant Variable regression formula.

Finally, I hope to post an interactive visualization by the end of the season so visitors can select their favorite school, view its metrics and compare it directly with another school of their choosing.

So, where does your team rank? Please feel free to leave comments, questions and overall thoughts!

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Nick Bennett