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Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports

An official journal of the American Statistical Association

Editor-in-Chief: Steve Rigdon, PhD

CiteScore 2018: 1.67

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.587
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 1.970

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Volume 10, Issue 1


Volume 1 (2005)

What if statisticians ran college football? A re-conceptualization of the football bowl subdivision

Jonathan A. Jensen / Brian A. Turner
Published Online: 2014-02-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jqas-2013-0071


Conference affiliation is an important consideration for institutions of higher learning, both athletically and academically. Traditionally, conference affiliation in the NCAA has been determined based largely on geography. However, recent events beg the question of what would be the result if conference affiliation, and classifications such as being a Bowl Championship Series Automatic Qualifier, were re-configured based not on traditional aspects of geography, tradition and like-mindedness, but solely on the financial and on-field performance of an institution’s football program. This paper utilizes a multivariate statistical technique (cluster analysis) to re-conceptualize conference affiliation, as well as the current Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) hierarchy, based solely on data reflecting the performance of each FBS institution’s football programs. The analysis results in a total of 23 programs being relegated from their current status, while several programs (such as Boise State, Louisville and Rutgers) have been promoted into the highest tier of the FBS based on their performance. The paper also presents a new clustering of four “super” conferences based on this same performance data, resulting in four conferences consisting of programs with similar on-field and financial performance over the past 10 seasons.

Keywords: cluster analysis; college football; conference affiliation; financial performance


About the article

Corresponding author: Jonathan A. Jensen, Department of Human Sciences, The Ohio State University, A220 PAES Building 305 West 17th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210-1234, USA, e-mail:

Published Online: 2014-02-07

Published in Print: 2014-01-01

Citation Information: Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, Volume 10, Issue 1, Pages 37–48, ISSN (Online) 1559-0410, ISSN (Print) 2194-6388, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jqas-2013-0071.

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