This summer, shortly before I moved to Athens, Ga., I decided I wanted season tickets to Georgia men's basketball. I was moving just down the road from Stegeman Coliseum, so, still in New York, I hopped on the Georgia basketball website and filled out a simple contact-for-information window. I heard back within the hour, with exclamation points. I halfway expected them to ask if I wanted to play. When I went to my first game this season, I discovered my seats were on the floor. I am not complaining -- it's a nice arena, too -- but suffice it to say, if I wanted similar treatment for Georgia football, I'll need to get in the ticket queue 20 years ago and live to be 143.
Meanwhile, after Illinois (my alma mater) beat Purdue on Saturday for its first Big Ten victory in more than two years, all anyone wanted to talk about on the postgame show and message boards afterward was John Groce's basketball team. Not just his team: Who Illinois is going after in recruiting, what D.J. Williams (a 2015 signee) will be like, which current high school sophomores are being targeted. Many Illinois fans would rather talk about a basketball player they won't see play in Champaign until November 2016 than a football player they can watch now.
The reason for this is simple: Georgia is a football school and Illinois is a basketball school. This is obvious to anyone who has spent even a modicum of time in either Athens or Champaign. And it got me thinking: Can we label every university a football school or a basketball school? As we enter the final week in which both sports are going on at most major universities, I thought I'd give it a shot.
For the sake of brevity and clarity, we're going to focus on the six AQ conferences in the BCS: the AAC, the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the SEC. I apologize to the other schools; I encourage someone else to take on the project of whether Colorado State is a basketball or football school. (I'd love to read it.) Some schools will fall in-between; some schools, arguably, are neither.
Note: We are not talking financially here. Because of television money and American viewing habits, one could make an argument that all of these schools are football schools. We're talking about culture. A lot of this is simply educated guessing: I can't know the cultures of these schools better than the students or the people who live there. So please let me know, in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org, where I've erred.
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Central Florida. A relatively new FBS entrant, they had tons of basketball success in Division II back in the '70s. Right now, George O'Leary's success, and the fact that they're in Florida, makes them a football school.
Cincinnati. The Big O went here, and the Bearcats won two national championships after he left town. Wins in the PapaJohns.com and Belk Bowls can't overcome that. Basketball school.
Connecticut. One of the easiest calls on the board: The basketball team's success is one of the main reason this school even has an FBS football team. Basketball school.
Houston. On one hand, Phi Slamma Jamma. On the other, Andre Ware, and they're in Texas. I'll plead to the crowd on this one, but I'll call it a push.
Louisville. They're doing what they can to promote the football program, but let's not kid ourselves here. Basketball school.
Memphis. Probably fair to say Josh Pastner finds his job slightly more stressful than Justin Fuente does. Basketball school.
Rutgers. Until Greg Schiano, you'd probably call this a women's basketball school. But when they get to the Big Ten next year, they'll be far more competitive on the gridiron. The sad thing is, this probably is New York City's college football team. Football school.
South Florida. Belonged in the old Big East a lot more in football than basketball. Football school.
Southern Methodist. They do have Larry Brown, which is not for nothing. But the only way you can get the death penalty in football is to have enough people care enough to be corrupt in the first place. Football school.
Temple. John Chaney telling John Calipari he will kill him, or the football team being kicked out of the Big East for "poor attendance averages, non-competitiveness, and a lack of commitment to the football program from university officials"? Basketball school.
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
Boston College. Doug Flutie vs. Jared Dudley. Football school.
Clemson. The basketball program is still trying to get it going again, and they have nothing that compares to The Hill, the most exciting 25 seconds in football. (Barely beating out "a Peyton Manning audible.") Football school.
Duke. But hey, they might be in the ACC Championship Game this year. Basketball school.
Florida State. It is worth noting that they were supposed to dominate this conference more in football than has turned out to be the case. Football school.
Georgia Tech. I find this one a tough one to nail down: Heck, even when they have recruiting violations, somehow the football and basketball programs find a way to cooperate. Still: The basketball team feels a lot more big-time than football, and interest level reflects that. Basketball school.
Maryland. Of all the schools to win national championships in the last 25 years, I'll confess Maryland is the one I forget. Basketball school.
Miami. They won't be making any 30 for 30s about Miami basketball. Football school.
North Carolina. Probably one of the top five disparities between football and basketball in the country … though maybe still -- as always these days! -- second in their own conference. Basketball school.
North Carolina State. Still sort of trying to relive the '80s, and might be doing so forever. Basketball school.
Notre Dame. Special Notre Dame football gets its own special football conference just for them. Football school.
Pittsburgh. They've had more success in basketball, but this school is still in Steelers country and boasts Dan Marino and Beano Cook as alumni. Calling it another push.
Syracuse. Nobody's signing up Scott Shafer to any massive book contracts. I wonder if Jim Boeheim would even recognize Scott Shafer if he ran into him in a hallway. Basketball school.
Virginia. Can't quite get my arms around this one: I'm going with Ralph Sampson and Tony Bennett, but I can be persuaded otherwise. Basketball school.
Virginia Tech. This one is much, much easier. Football school.
Wake Forest. Of late, it's been "neither," really, but this is still the school of Chris Paul. Basketball school.
BIG TEN CONFERENCE
Illinois. Illini football has had two of the 10 worst conference losing streaks in Big Ten history since I've graduated from college. Basketball school.
Indiana. Ron Swanson doesn't have any pictures of Bill Mallory on his wall. Basketball school.
Iowa. Tough call here -- a generally underrated fan base in both sports. All told, the answer is probably "wrestling." Push.
Michigan. They've upgraded the facilities for basketball, but they could add another 50,000 seats to the football stadium and still sell the place out for eternity. Football school.
Michigan State. The football team has always been quietly good, but this is the land of Magic, of Jud, of the Izzone. Basketball school.
Minnesota. Like Iowa, the question is probably a false one, since the answer is "hockey," but it might come down to "pretty new stadium" to "venerated old one." I can't decide. Push.
Nebraska. The friendliest lunatic fan base in all of sports. Football school.
Northwestern. This year aside, it has been a heady couple of decades for Wildcats football. Meanwhile, the basketball team still waits for that first NCAA tournament appearance. Football school.
Ohio State. The least friendly lunatic fan base in all of sports. (OK, all of college football.) Football school.
Penn State. Fortunately, the blind love for football here has never gotten out of hand. Football school.
Purdue. The football team is so bad now that you forget Drew Brees actually went here. It's weird that Gene Keady never made a Final Four. Basketball school.
Wisconsin. The football program was rather horrible until fairly recently, but now, they're a machine. Football school.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE
Baylor. Out of nowhere, this is an actual competition. Still: RGIII and Texas. Football school.
Iowa State. It feels like all the major football occurrences happen at other Iowa schools; Kurt Warner really should have been theirs. There is no football equivalent of The Mayor. Basketball school.
Kansas. They did not invent football in Lawrence. Basketball school.
Kansas State. Hoops has made up some ground in recent years -- though they might be heading back downward again -- but they actually named the football stadium after the current coach. Football school.
Oklahoma. Can you even fit that wagon in the basketball arena? Football school.
Oklahoma State. Lots of basketball tradition, but probably still not enough to overcome T. Boone Pickens' cash. Sports Illustrated made it look extremely fun to play here. Football school.
Texas Christian. Texas. Football school.
Texas. Texas. Football school.
Texas Tech. Texas. Football school.
West Virginia. They don't burn couches after basketball games. Football school.
Arizona. Is this the most underrated basketball school in the country? One can make an argument. Basketball school.
Arizona State. The real champion in Tempe is "blackout partying self-destruction," but, well, let's just go with a push.
California. There is The Big Game, but for a long time, there hasn't been much here at all. Push.
Colorado. There's not much of a recruiting base in either sport, but never forget that the Buffaloes once won a national championship with a loss and a tie. Football school.
Oregon. Eventually they're gonna get that national championship if Phil Knight has to put on a helmet himself. Football school.
Oregon State. The Civil War itself outweighs basketball, which hasn't made an NCAA tournament since 1990. Football school.
Stanford. Feeling similar to rival Cal here. Ask The Tree. (Love that video so much. Remember when ESPN was like that?) Recent success gives football the edge. Football school.
UCLA. Considering the history and the expectations, this has to be the toughest, perhaps least desirable, major coaching job in college hoops. Basketball school.
USC. All you need is the right coach. But they're tougher to find than one might think, apparently. Football school.
Utah. The football success of the last 10 years got them a spot in this league, but all told, basketball feels a larger part of the culture. Basketball school.
Washington. With that home stadium, there's no contest. Football school.
Washington State. The football stadium is surprisingly small -- it has about 20,000 fewer seats than the Carrier Dome -- but it's not like the basketball team has done much to distinguish itself either. Push.
Alabama. You're about to start seeing a pattern here. Football school.
Auburn. Auburn basketball is playing Illinois at Philips Arena in Atlanta this year, and I fully expect there to be a 5:1 Illinois fan advantage. Football school.
Arkansas. The "40 Minutes of Hell" make it close. But it's still Arkansas. Football school.
Florida. The Gators won two NCAA titles in a row, and those championships will be remembered less in Gainesville than that loss to Georgia Southern this weekend. Football school.
Georgia. Seriously: My seats are amazing. Football school.
Kentucky. It's not that Wildcats fans don't care about football. But Kentucky basketball fans are the Nebraska football fans of college sports. Multiplied by the Yankees, to the Cowboys' power. Basketball school.
LSU. You know there were people on campus at the time trying to talk Shaq into playing football. Football school.
Mississippi. Marshall Henderson can't compete with The Grove. Football school.
Mississippi State. The Egg Bowl this weekend is the highlight of every MSU sports calendar. Social calendar. Life calendar. Football school.
Missouri. Toughest call in the conference. Basically, both basketball and football have always been good, and always come up just short, in particularly painful ways. (If I did a Tortured Fan Base Rankings for the NCAA, Missouri would be up there.) Push.
South Carolina. Do you think Steve Spurrier has ever been to a basketball game? Football school.
Tennessee. Second place is definitely women's basketball, or at least it should be. Football school.
Texas A&M. Texas. Football school.
Vanderbilt. Football's coming along, but if the coach leaves, they might fall right back to the bottom. Basketball school.
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