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UA professors gauge college football rivalries

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | April 22, 2015 at 3:10 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- What happens when a group of economists walks into a sports bar?

The result of such an excursion -- metaphorically speaking, anyway -- soon will be published in the scholarly journal Economic Inquiry. A group of researchers, including two University of Arkansas at Fayetteville professors, has devised a way to examine the intensity of college football rivalries, UA announced Thursday.

"We wanted to look at what factors drive hostile feelings," Cary Deck, professor of economics at UA's Sam M. Walton College of Business, said in a statement. "We thought people would be interested in knowing how strong different rivalries are, by an objective measure, but we also found it an interesting alternative setting to examine more general questions about how factors influence rivalrous feelings."

UA economics professor Javier Reyes and other researchers from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Louisiana State University also worked on the project.

The researchers used data from a 2009 Sports Illustrated survey on fan devotion, looking mostly at the survey question, "Which school is your biggest conference rival?" Researchers noted how successful schools generate feelings of rivalry from many schools, such as the University of Southern California within its conference. They concluded that Boise State was the most hated team in 2009.

Within a conference, the most intense two-way rivalry was between Central Michigan and Western Michigan, according to researchers. Next was the rivalry between Arizona and Arizona State.

"This does not mean that feelings are stronger in Michigan than they are in Arizona," Deck said in a statement. "It only means that the fan base's feelings about each other are more aligned. In other words, Central Michigan fans' dislike is concentrated on Western Michigan and vice versa, slightly more so than the mutual feelings of dislike between Arizona and Arizona State, because those fans also dislike USC."

Metro on 04/22/2015

Print Headline: UA professors gauge college football rivalries

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