Research Highlights

 
March 25, 2014

Pay for Play, circa 2014

Despite the amount of money generated by college sports, the vast majority of Americans do not support compensating top college athletes beyond a scholarship. This is according to an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll that found only 29% felt athletes should be financially compensated, compared to the 67% that felt that a scholarship and a chance to earn a degree was enough. This represents a slight change from last year, where 72% said that a scholarship was enough.

Race was clearly a factor in this decision. While 25% of whites and 27% of Latinos supported paying athletes beyond a scholarship, 53% of African American respondents believed they should be compensated. This clearly speaks to the percentage of football and basketball players at major universities that are African American. When juxtaposed to the percentage of white coaches and upper athletic administrators, most of whom are very well compensated, it presents a notable and obvious contrast.

This was manifest even more clearly when survey participants were asked specifically about race as a factor in compensation of college athletes. 31% said they believe it’s a least partially true that the reason college athletes in top basketball and football programs aren’t paid is because a majority are African American.  That percent jumps to 61% when looking at only African American respondents. And it drops to 25% when looking at only white respondents. Regardless of perspective, it’s clear that Americans truly see issues around compensation in college sports through the prism of race. College administrators should at least recognize this perspective when considering both policy and perception.

And one final note on this – even as most say they’d rather not have college athletes paid, it wouldn’t likely effect how much they enjoy watching the game. 73% said paying athletes would have no impact on how much they enjoy college sports, while only 23% said they’d enjoy it less and 4% would enjoy it more. The numbers are slightly different for college sports fans, with 27% saying they’d enjoy watching it less. Whether that would translate to fewer viewers would remain to be seen. But regardless, it’s clear that the majority of Americans would enjoy watching the game just the same, payments or not.


March 25, 2014

It’s Only a Game

People may love college sports. But they also think it is over prioritized, according to an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll that found 61% think universities place too much emphasis on athletics, compared to 34% that think they strike a good balance. This goes in contrast to what people say they care about, with 90% of survey respondents saying they care more about the academic reputation than the athletic success of colleges in their region. Only 7% care more about athletic success. That number is consistent even with college sports fans, with only 8% caring more about athletics.

It also seems that the public thinks this over prioritization of sports comes with student athletes being given vast privilege by the local police and communities. 66% said top student athletes receive special treatment, while only 25% said they are treated the same as other people students. These numbers were fairly consistent across demographic sub groups.

Both these statistics indicate that Americans are leery of the world of big time college sports. That said, what people say and do may be different things. College sports continue to command giant television contracts and large spectator audiences.  So even as people express their dismay with the system, they do still support it with their dollars and eyeballs.


 March 25, 2014

Union Busters

College athletes may want to unionize, but they won’t have the support of the general public. That’s according to an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll where 75% of respondents said that college athletes should not be able to join a union because they are not employees of a university. Only 22% supported athletes’ rights to unionize, with 4% unsure.  These percentages were fairly consistent amongst different demographic groups, with those 18-29 most likely to support unionization at 30%. Only 17% of those 45 and older supported student athlete unions.

This statistic is fairly consistent with views on whether athletes should be paid. However, these numbers potentially represent something deeper. Along with unionization for athletes could come greater protections from injuries, the ability to negotiate guaranteed scholarships and greater academic support, and changes to their overall work environment. These go far beyond simple payment and compensation. When Americans largely say that college athletes should not be able to unionize, they are insinuating that college administrators should maintain control over the athletes that help to generate money and publicity. This is a far more fundamental view than simply whether athletes should receive payment, and it clearly reflects the public’s view that college athletes “have it pretty good,” whether this is in fact the case.


 March 25, 2014

Don’t Bet on It

It might seem like everyone at the office is gambling on the NCAA tournament. But that’s not likely the case, at least according to an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll. According to the poll, only 15% of respondents planned to fill out an NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket, while 85% did not. Further, of the 15% that would fill out brackets for the Big Dance, only 8% would bet money on the event. That amounts a marginal amount of America that actually plans to gamble on the tournament – although 12% of respondents admitted to having bet on college sports in the past year.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. On the one hand, 15% is a relatively small number, and the number that bet on the tournament is far less. So perhaps one might suggest the power of the NCAA tournament is somewhat overblown. It’s probably equally wise to take another view – that 15% paying attention to college athletes playing basketball is a considerable phenomenon in today’s niche society, where you’ll hardly ever find 15% of Americans doing any one thing at the same time. Further, it’s notable that 12% of Americans bet on college sports this past year – athletes that receive no compensation of their own. So while others make money off their efforts, the athletes themselves can’t. And of course, these results say nothing to the amounts that some might be wagering, which could be considerable.

Finally, there is the obvious issue of gambling and college sports, an existential danger to the institution. Unlike today’s pro athletes, college athletes can be influenced by the possibility of making money through gambling on sports, even their own. It has been the genesis of many scandals that have threatened college sports, particularly basketball, where shaving and fixing points is relatively easy to star players. The fact that gambling remains a considerable part of college sports – and most if it illegal – should be a concern to all those involved with college athletics programs and the NCAA. 12% of Americans is still a big number, and certainly large enough to have considerable economic impact. It’s wise for college athletics administrators to be concerned with the reach of those in the industry.


 January 21, 2014

Despite changes in law, sports fans don't support marijuana use by pro athletes; Differences found by age, gender

Many Americans may now believe that marijuana should be legal in the US, but that doesn’t mean they want professional athletes to indulge. That's according to an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll done with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, which found that 62% of American sports fans felt that marijuana should be still be banned for professional athletes regardless of the law. Only 36% said it shouldn’t be banned, with 2% unsure. This stands in stark contrast to public sentiment in the US about marijuana use by the general public, with recent polls finding that over half of Americans asserting it should be legal. There were some clear divides both by age and gender. 70% of those 60 and older believe it should be banned, compared to only 51% of those 18-29. And women were far less lenient than men on this position, with 67% of women supporting a ban for athletes compared to 57% of men. These numbers reflect clear differences in opinion towards marijuana use by pro athletes, which could be both reflective of perspectives both on marijuana as well as the place of star athletes in American society.

These numbers didn’t change much when sports fans were asked to consider the pain and anxiety regularly experienced by professional athletes. In light of those ideas, still only 34% believed athletes should be allowed to use marijuana, compared to the 64% that thought they shouldn’t. Similar divides were found by age and gender, with over half (55%) of those 18-29 asserting they should be able to in light of these challenges, while only 23% of those 60% and up believing so.  Fewer women (31%) than men (37%) supported that liberty for pro athletes.

One can make a few generalizations from these results. First, it’s clear that sports fans view pro athletes differently than they view the rest of society. This could be for several reasons. It may be because they expect pro athletes to serve as role models to kids, a narrative that isn’t furthered by their smoking marijuana, which although legal for some adults in the US, certainly wouldn’t be aspirational for children. It may also defy the vision we hold of our professional athletes, who achieve greatness without the aid of drugs and narcotics, even something like marijuana. In that regard, smoking pot could be viewed much like taking PED’s. Sports fans may also believe that because of the vast salaries of pro athletes, they should be held to higher standards than the rest of society. And lastly, sports fans may believe that pro athletes should singularly chase greatness, something that seems defied, fairly or not, through the cloud of marijuana use.

Second, these results indicate Americans show little compassion for the physical and emotional stress suffered by pro athletes. Despite being reminded of these tribulations and how marijuana is often used to alleviate these conditions, sports fans overwhelmingly believed athletes should not be allowed to use it. Where Americans increasingly support the use of medical marijuana, they don’t seem to extend that support to professional athletes seeking this medical assistance.

Lastly, it’s obvious that age is important in considering these questions. Young Americans are far more likely to believe pro athletes should be allowed to use marijuana. It’s difficult to know whether this is because they have vastly different opinions on marijuana as a banned substance, because they have lower expectations of their pro athletes to behave as role models, or a combination of the two. Regardless, young American sports fans were far less restrictive of pro athletes, something that could manifest itself in potential policy changes in generations to come. That said, it’s hard to imagine any professional sports league, in light of the entirety of these poll results, to lessen their policies any time soon.

Click here for the full release and data.


 December 17, 2013

Boston Marathon tragedy dominate the national conversation on sports

This year's sports headlines were filled with stories that went far beyond scores and statistics, many of them with ties to education, security, and the larger world outside of sports. But one story in particular caught the public's attention.  Sports fans overwhelmingly (71%) chose the Boston Marathon bombing as the story in sports this year with the greatest impact. No other story came close, with the NFL concussion settlement finishing second with 14% and the Biogenesis drug scandal and the NFL's hazing scandal finishing a distant tie for third with 7%. This shouldn't be a surprise. While the other stories were important, the Boston Marathon story both change sport and transcended it.

What might be most interesting is what this tells us all about the context of sports. Typically, the concussion story or the hazing incident would be considered a monumental tale. The same might be said for the drug scandals, something that has even gone to Congress before. Yet when confronted with a story that involves national security, death of innocent bystanders, and an erosion of American'innocence, the public is able to contextualize the importance of all these tales. So while baseball fans may consider the drug scandal important, they largely and overwhelmingly see the Boston story as far more impactful. Perhaps in the end, people do realize that it is only a game. The only thing that may also be interesting here is how the NFL concussion story develops. While only 14% selected it this year, it is entirely possible that this story continues to grow in importance in the upcoming years. As such, we may see this garner more public attention in subsequent year end polls.

Click here for full study results and statistics from the Marist Poll.


 December 17, 2013

Manning Again

For the second consecutive year, Broncos QB Peyton Manning was picked as the player with the greatest impact. Manning was picked by 55% of polled sports fans, far ahead of NBA star LeBron James with 20%. James finished second last year as well. Tennis star Serena Williams and baseball player Miguel Cabrerra finished far behind, with 11% and 10% respectively.

Once again, Manning surpassed James despite the remarkable season by the NBA star, including a second consecutive NBA title and NBA playoff MVP. This is again a strong demonstration of the importance of the star quarterback in the minds of the American public. These results also likely reflect Manning's statistical greatness this NFL season, as he closes in on the record for most touchdowns in NFL history, a mark held by rival quarterback Tom Brady.

However, we did see differences when the results are broken down by age. Respondents between 18-29 narrowly selected James first over Manning, the only demographic to make that choice. This demonstrates the NBA's popularity with younger sports fans, certainly a welcome statistic for NBA officials and marketers looking to promote James for endorsement purposes.

Click here for full study results and statistics from the Marist Poll.


 December 17, 2013

Cinderella in Alabama

Every sports calendar has several tales of Cinderellas, upset stories that make fans watch in the first place. As many coaches say, that's why they play the game. This year was no different. When asked which Cinderella was the fairest of all this year, Americans chose Auburn's win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl, a game that dismantled the Crimson Tide's quest for a third consecutive college football national championship. 36% of sports fans chose the Auburn win, just over the 33% that picked the Boston Red Sox worst-to-first season that ended in a World Series title. Far further back were the Pittsburgh Pirates finally making the baseball playoffs (18%) and Florida Gulf Coast's unlikely run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament (11%).

What's surprising here isn't that sports fans enjoyed watching Auburn and Boston pull off remarkable victories. It's that fans picked teams that don't really fit the true model of Cinderella over those that do. Auburn and the Red Sox both have vast resources and a legacy of success in their sport. In contrast, Florida Gulf Coast had barely been in existence, much less a player on the national stage. And the Pirates hadn't made the playoffs in 21 years while maintaining one of the smallest payrolls in baseball. Statistically speaking, their accomplishments were far more unlikely. Yet sports fans were more intrigued by the successes of their more powerful and well-resourced counterparts. It speaks, if nothing else, to the importance of brand in the current sports world

Click here for full study results and statistics from the Marist Poll.


 December 17, 2013

David Ortiz is the MVP of this year's poll

David Ortiz's World Series MVP ranked as this year’s single greatest sporting accomplishment, chosen by 29% of sports fans. Close behind with 28% came the Miami Heat winning 27 consecutive regular season games. Trailing those were Jimmy Johnson winning his sixth consecutive Sprint Cup Championship (20%) and Tiger Woods again becoming the world's number one ranked golfer (16%).

There were a few interesting notes. First, both younger and non-white respondents chose the Heat's win streak first, reflecting both a younger and more diverse audience for the NBA compared to baseball. Second, sports fans clearly privileged team sports accomplishments over individual once. It would be hard to argue against Jimmy Johnson's accomplishments as singular in greatness, overcoming the entire racing world for six consecutive year. Similarly, Tiger Wood's resurgence is an impressively unlikely tale. But American sports fans were more impressed by feats done in team sports, even though something like the World Series MVP award in baseball by definition happens every year. If nothing else, it does speak to the importance of team games in American society.

Click here for full study results and statistics from the Marist Poll.


 October 22, 2013

What Americans know about concussions and football

The word is out about concussions in football. According to an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll done with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, 55% of Americans and 60% of American football fans have heard a good deal about the link between concussions from playing football and long-term brain injury. And 86% and 91%, respectively, of Americans and sports fans have heard at least something about this link. This does divide somewhat by socioeconomics, with only 47% of those fans earning less than $50,000 hearing a good deal about this link compared to 66% for those who earn $50,000 or more. Whether this has ramifications on who participates in the sport of football in the future remains to be seen, but it does indicate an information gap at the very least.


 October 22, 2013

Letting kids play football, but with concerns

The vast majority, 85% of Americans, would allow their kids to play football, as would 88% of football fans and 85% of those with sons. That's according to an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll done with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, which also found that 70% of American adults and 75% of football fans feel that the benefits of playing football outweigh the risks for kids. Along those lines, 74% of adults, 81% of football fans, and 74% of parents with sons believe football is a good way to build character. From these numbers, we are certainly led to believe that football has a stable place in the future of American sport, particularly in terms of training the next generation of would-be gridiron stars.

That said, there are some indications that this may not be entirely the case. According to this same poll, 33% of Americans and 35% of parents with sons would be less likely to allow their son to play football because of the reported link between concussions from football and long-term brain injury. That number goes up to 37% of football fans who are college graduates and 38% in the Northeast. Additionally, 72% of Americans and 71% of football fans say this is at least one important factor in deciding whether to let a son play football. That number goes up to 77% for parents with a son 18 or younger. And 18% of those parents say it is the deciding factor. So while it may only be conjecture and concern instead of action, Americans and American parents are clearly thinking about the concussion risks in football and how that should affect decisions towards their kids. This should be an area of great concern not only for those running youth and high school football, but also for those operating professional and college football. It also should indicate that while football is still immensely popular, that stakehold may not be a permanent position.

 


 October 22, 2013

Watching, but worried 

For the most part, the news about the link between football related concussions and long-term brain injury hasn't gotten too many Americans more concerned. That's according to an HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll done with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. While 32% nationally, and 31% of football fans (and 33% of parents with a son 18 or younger) are more concerned, 30%, 32%, and 31% are less concerned, respectively, since this news will allow coaches and educators to take necessary precautions.

Still, the NFL may have cause for concern with the increased news coverage of this link, particularly if the sport aspires to remain atop the American sports landscape. According to the poll, 14% of all football fans find watching the sport less enjoyable given what they now know about concussions and the sport. This number may seem unimpressive, but if eventually converted into action -- like not watching the games -- this would be a small but significant hit to professional and college football's bottom lines. Particularly in a remarkably competitive sports and media landscape, any erosion of fan support can be detrimental in a world of rising salaries and costs. Further, it this were to suggest a trend, than competitive football would have to combat both this perception and ensuing reality or risk relative irrelevance, particularly compared to its current lofty perch. This also explains why the NFL in particular has tried so hard to control the flow of information on this topic, often with detrimental effects.


 July 23, 2013

Show Me the Test Results

Baseball has long struggled with the specter of performance enhancing drugs. Such is compounded by the difficulty in effective drug testing, making it hard for baseball officials to effectively regulate the sport even with the best of intentions. However, that’s the way baseball fans want it, according to a Marist Poll done with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. 61% of 574 surveyed baseball fans said they don’t think MLB should suspend players with ties to clinics associated with PEDs (like Biogenesis) if they haven’t actually failed a drug test. Only 28% said they should suspend these athletes without a positive test. Further, those percentages are fairly stable across age, gender, geography, and other demographics. These results speak to the power of hero worship in our society. Sports fans offer star athletes true benefit of the doubt, even in light of seemingly overwhelming evidence of cheating. Giving into that reality would clearly undermine long held feelings of fans towards athletic heroes and potentially cause cognitive dissonance in many fans. For the majority of sports fans, surrendering these strong ties requires not just circumstantial evidence, not matter how strong, but a true smoking gun in the way of a failed drug test. These results reinforce our understanding of the importance of sports heroes in the American psyche and also help explain why so many athletes refuse to admit their own drug use without the presence of hard evidence. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


 July 23, 2013

Keep the Hall Clean

The Baseball Hall of Fame represents a place of nearly mythic status for many baseball fans, who often see it a shrine to those that accomplished seemingly superhuman feats. It is a hallway not only for athletic greats, but for generational heroes that rose above their athletic peers. But fans want their athletes to not only be great, they also apparently want them to be clean as well. That’s according to a Marist Poll done with the Center for Sports Communication, where an overwhelming 78% of 574 surveyed baseball fans said fans who have used performance enhancing drugs should not be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Only 18% said they should be eligible, with 4% unsure. These numbers are stable across most demographics, with older respondents, those 60 and up, being less likely (85%) to support induction, and those between 30-44 slightly more likely (68%) to support induction for those wayward athletes. Perhaps Gen X sports fans have simply come of age with the reality of PEDs, making them a bit more callous to its importance in the larger framework of sports history. More generally, perhaps these results speak to baseball itself, where history and records hold greater weight than they might in other sports. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


 March 26, 2013

Scholarship Is Still Enough

Despite the professional aura of the NCAA basketball tournament, sports fans prefer to maintain some appearance of amateurism, particularly when it comes to compensating the athletes that play big time college sports. Of 754 sports fans surveyed nationally in a scientific study, only 21% said they’d like to see top college athletes paid a stipend or salary beyond their scholarship. 72% believed a scholarship alone was enough compensation, while 6% believe they should receive neither salary nor scholarship for their efforts.  Last year in the same study, 27% believed top athletes deserved a salary. So for all discussion about paying college athletes, public opinion doesn’t support this idea, and the trend seems to be going even further from it. This would help explain the NCAA’s reticence to address what many perceive as unfair labor practices, as the NCAA’s core audience simply isn’t demanding it. For more analysis, visit the Center's YouTube Channel. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


 March 26, 2013

Big Money for College Coaches

High profile college coaches earn considerable salaries. Nearly half of all sports fans think they deserve that and more. That, according to a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, where 45% of sports fans think they should be paid as much as their professional coaching counterparts. This is up from 39% who felt this way last year. Additionally, 3% feel they deserve more than the pros, while 51% feel they should receive less. So while sports fans largely and increasingly say top college athletes shouldn’t be paid a salary, conversely they seem to increasingly believe their coaches should be paid more. That is significant, considering the nearly $2 million difference in average salary between NBA coaches and top college men’s basketball coaches (coaches of teams that make the NCAA tournament). If nothing else, it does show that approximately half of all sports fans think college coaches deserve the same riches that go to the pros, reflecting a possible awareness of the professionalization of the college game. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll


 March 26, 2013

Go to Class

Playing big time college sports can seem like a full time job, even with the NCAA’s limit on official practice time. The time commitment can make the academic demands of college life extremely difficult for some. Regardless, sports fans overwhelmingly still want athletes to attend class and tend to their studies like other college students. That’s according a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, where 95% of sports fans think college athletes should have to go to class and focus on their studies, while only 5% think they should be allowed to just focus on training and competing without having to worry about academics. These results reveal a few things. First, they show that sports fans want their college athletes to appear to be college athletes, not semi-pro athletes wearing a college logo.  Second, it suggests sports fans may not truly realize the time and effort commitments of big-time Division I athletics. It would be hard to imagine these numbers being so imbalanced if fans truly understood the hours required for practice, competition, travel, etc. Lastly, it seems to indicate that sports fans do not particularly empathize with the difficulties of being a student athlete. These results suggest that sports fans see college sports as something of a privilege, an extra-curricular activity to be appreciated, not a burden that potentially oppresses top athletes. Certainly the results don't indicate that sports fans support the construct of college athletics as a training ground for a career in sports, just as coursework serves as a training ground for most college students towards their careers of choice. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


 March 26, 2013

Cheating and Trying

It’s often said (sarcastically, we assume) that if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. If that’s the case, then sports fans think college sports programs are trying really hard.  That’s according a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, where 67% of sports fans said it is common practice for college athletic programs to break NCAA rules, while 26% said it isn’t common practice and 7% were unsure. That’s up from 55% thinking it commonplace last year (and 35% thinking it wasn’t with 10% unsure). It’s likely these numbers were driven by several recent high profile cases of colleges getting caught and reprimanded by the NCAA, often for recruiting violations. Whether teams are in fact cheating more or if it’s simply a case of greater media attention on these cases is unclear. Regardless, it’s fairly obvious that most sports fans think these cases are not isolated ones. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


 March 26, 2013

Blame the Student, Not the Coach (or President)

College coaches and college presidents may be the primary decision makers when it comes to college athletics. Despite that, sports fans think that when college athletes get into trouble, it’s they, not their coaches and administrators, who should be held responsible. That’s according a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, where 70% of sports fans said athletes should be held responsible for their transgressions, 16% blamed the coaches, 12% blamed college presidents, and 3% were unsure. These results aren’t altogether surprising, since it’s the athletes themselves that typically get the attention when the problems happen. It's the athletes who end up missing games and causing great debate on sports networks. What is a bit surprising, dissonant even, is that while sports fans seem to think coaches should be paid more for their efforts (and college athletes shouldn’t be paid at all), it’s still the athletes that are liable when trouble happens. So while college coaches and presidents have autonomy over decision making (including being able to pull a student athlete’s scholarship), they are isolated from much of the responsibility of the actions of their unpaid labor. This probably also reinforces the idea that college coaches should focus on winning, not stellar behavior, when looking towards job security. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


 March 26, 2013

March is Mad Enough as It Is

For some, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament could never be long enough. That’s a minority, however, according to a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, as the vast majority of college basketball fans (77%) think the tournament is just the right size. Conversely, 20% want fewer teams, while only 3% want an expanded tournament.  This is almost the same number as last year, when 78% said it was the right size. Clearly not oversampled here: college coaches hoping to save their jobs. This result may reflect the public’s general love of the NCAA tournament more than any particular and long-lasting affection with 68 teams. In other words, college sports fans love the tournament, so any change might be deemed unwise. It is also possible that the 20% who want fewer teams are showing dissatisfaction with the eight team “first round,” which was added recently to accommodate a more robust television schedule and to allow major conferences to receive more bids. These numbers do suggest the NCAA should show caution before considering moving to 96 or even 128 teams – although it would make 3% of college basketball fans very happy. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


December 27, 2012

New York Giants Win Again

The American public reaffirmed their love of football, choosing the New York Giants’ Super Bowl win as the top title of 2012. With 36% of the vote, they were picked by over twice as many sports fans as those that picked the second place San Francisco Giants, who won the World Series this past year. If nothing else, this reaffirms America’s passion for professional football. It also stresses the importance of the New York City market as an agenda setter for sports tastes, perhaps even in a league where place is far less relevant. It also reminds us that baseball is simply America’s second pastime.

Going inside the numbers, it’s notable that for the 18-29 year old age group, the Heat’s title ranked number one. That may have something to do with the undeniable star power of last year’s Heat team. It may also have something to do with the dynamic nature of professional basketball and the broadcast style that appeals to a younger viewership. What’s unclear is if this is specific to this particular Miami team or if this younger audience will remain attached to the league as they age. If so, the NBA could truly establish itself as America’s second sport.

For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. Click here for full study results and statistics from the Marist Poll.


December 27, 2012 

Phelps Medal Record Resonates with Sports Fans

Michael Phelps’ record for the overall most Olympic medals in history ranked as this year’s single greatest sporting accomplishment, chosen by 28% of sports fans. Close behind with 23% came the US Women’s Gymnastics Team winning the overall gold medal. Far behind came two professional sports accomplishments, Drew Brees setting the consecutive touchdown record and Miguel Cabrera winning the Triple Crown. While both of these were notable, historic accomplishments, it’s clear that people view Olympic success with greater reverence than most professional accomplishments. That may have to do with the perceived altruistic nature of the Games or because it only happens every four years. Or perhaps this taps into our nationalistic passions. Either way, while professional athletes and sports reign supreme in this country, Olympic accomplishments are highly regarded.

Of note is a gender difference in responses. While 31% of male respondents picked Phelps, a resounding first pick, 33% of female respondents picked the US Women’s Gymnastics Team, making it the first choice amongst women. This doesn’t seem to simply be a statement about women’s sports, since the women’s soccer gold finished much further down with 14% for female respondents. Several possible explanations exist, ranging from the relative age of the gymnastics team to the nature of the sport itself. Regardless, it’s clear that when networks present women’s gymnastics to appeal to a largely female viewing audience, this resonates beyond its initial viewing.

For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. Click here for full study results and statistics from the Marist Poll.


December 27, 2012

Jerry Sandusky Trial More Impactful than Lance Armstrong Saga

Several sports stories creeped far beyond their fields and courts this year. And when asked to pick which one of these had the greatest impact, sports fans overwhelmingly (48%) chose the Jerry Sandusky trial. Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal fell far behind with only 18%, while all three professional team sports issues presented received relatively small percentages of votes. It shouldn't be all that surprising that the Sandusky trial was chosen so widely, both because of the serious nature of the offense and because of its direct impact on children. So even with Armstrong’s slide from grace and the relative end of a hero, its social impact was seen as far less direct and impactful.

Two interesting notes. First, the NHL lockout is hardly an afterthought.   That’s bad news for both owners and players that think the public will demand a settlement. Instead, sports fans seem largely ambivalent. Second, it appears there are few lingering aftershocks from Bountygate, where NFL players allegedly took money for excessively hard hits.

Finally, while most of America thought the Sandusky trial was the most vital issue, 18-29 year olds actually chose the Lance Armstrong scandal as the number one choice. This is the age group that is least likely to have children of their own or have contemporaries that have children. So the Sandusky trial may not resonate as personally as it does for other age groups. Additionally, this age group grew up with Lance Armstrong as childhood hero. So his undoing may have a more personal resonance.

For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. Click here for full study results and statistics from the Marist Poll.


December 27, 2012

2012 Was Not Tebow Time

It hasn’t been a great year for Tim Tebow, at least not recently in his time with the New York Jets. Sports fans seem to have grown weary of him, or at least the amount of coverage he’s received this past year, overwhelmingly choosing Tebow as the most overhyped athlete of the year. His 46% placed him far ahead of second place Alex Rodriguez (18%) of the New York Yankees, even despite Rodriguez’s severely lackluster performance in the playoffs.

What’s notable about these results isn’t just the margin of victory. It’s that Tebow finished first amongst all demographics. Young and old, male and female, white and non-white – they all think Tim Tebow has gotten way more hype than he deserved this year. By all recent personnel indications, it looks like his employer the New York Jets feel the same way.

For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. Click here for full study results and statistics from the Marist Poll.


 December 27, 2012

The Year of the Quarterback

He may not have won a title this year, but Broncos QB Peyton Manning was picked as the player with the greatest impact this year. Manning was picked by 35% of polled sports fans, ahead of NBA star LeBron James with 24%. No other athlete received more than 10%, including Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin, golfer Rory McIlroy, and tennis star Serena Williams, all of whom had career years. Perhaps it’s not altogether a surprise, as NBA stars and NFL quarterbacks are largely placed at the top of the American sports landscape. This is why they often receive the most lavish endorsement deals.

It is perhaps surprising that James finished behind Manning. James won his first NBA title and an Olympic gold medal along with a league MVP award. That would seemingly push him to the top spot. Clearly, Manning’s remarkable comeback from a nearly career ending neck injury and subsequent banner year with the Broncos this season captivated the American public. And given Manning’s legacy as sporting royalty, his performances may always resonate more loudly with sports fans.

However, we did see differences when the results are broken down by race. White sports fans overwhelmingly chose Manning over James, 38% to 18%. Non-white sports fans picked James over Manning, 38% to 26%. It’s impossible to say exactly why this the case, since it’s perhaps too simplistic to say that white fans simply prefer a white star while non-whites prefer a non-white star. There are likely many factors that contribute to this difference. But it is fair to say that that sports fans do see their sports stars at least partially through the prism of race.

For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel. Click here for full study results and statistics from the Marist Poll.


 July 23, 2012

Olympics Still Event TV

Even in a 500-channel universe with endless choice, the Olympics are still worth watching. Of the 1010 Americans surveyed, 19% will watch a great deal, while 23% will watch a good amount. Only 20% won’t watch at all, explaining why the Olympics can still be a good value for NBC despite the astronomical price tag. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


July 23, 2012

Gymnastics Gets Gold, Swimming Bronze

Even without past Olympic champion Shawn Johnson, Americans are ready for gymnastics. Of the 798 Americans surveyed who will watch the Olympic Games, 30% picked gymnastics as the Olympic sport they are most excited to watch, followed by swimming at 23%. Basketball and soccer fell far behind at 11% and 10%, respectively, reinforcing the importance of individual stars and individual sports in the Olympics over team fare. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


July 23, 2012

Phelps and Williams Get top Billing

The world’s most decorated swimmer and the reigning Wimbledon champion are the Olympic athletes Americans think will star in the 2012 Games. Of the 798 Americans surveyed who will watch the Olympic Games, 50% think Michael Phelps will be the biggest male star of the games, followed distantly by LeBron James at 17% and Usain Bolt at 8%. Neither Ryan Lochte nor Oscar Pistorius received more than 5%. On the women’s side, Serena Williams was picked by 43%, far ahead of soccer star Hope Solo with 11%. These results reaffirm the importance of individual sports stars over team stars in the Olympic Games. They also highlight the place of national pride in star making – even though Usain Bolt is clearly one of the most dynamic returning athletes from 2008, he is not highly anticipated by an American audience. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


July 23, 2012

Chinese Top Rival, Far Ahead of Russia

For American sports fans, Beijing was simply the beginning. Of the 798 Americans surveyed who will watch the Olympic Games, 41% think China will be America’s top rival in the 2012 Olympic Games. Russia ranks second with 15%, while host Great Britain received only 7%. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising given China’s dominant performance in 2008. But it does illustrate that Americans have moved far beyond the Cold War era of the Olympics, when the Soviet Union was America’s sole rival. Even with their strong showing in recent Games, Russia feels but a shadow of their former namesake. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


July 23, 2012

Country First, Records Second

Going fast is great – especially if it’s an American. Of the 798 Americans surveyed who will watch the Olympic Games, 50% said it’s most important for Americans to win medals, while 43% said they’d rather see record performances regardless of who wins. So while the Olympics is a place American fans turn for star performances, they’d still rather see Americans atop the medal stand. That probably reflects and drives media coverage of the Games, a mix of both American athletes and select world superstars. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


July 23, 2012

Pass the Remote, not the Mouse

The Internet may be the future of sports media, but for the Olympic Games in America, TV is still the here and now. Of the 798 Americans surveyed who will watch the Olympic Games, 61% said they’d watch the Olympic Games exclusively on television. Another 31% said they’d watch primarily on TV, with a little online. Only 8% said they’d watch either mainly or exclusively online. This may reflect the communal nature of the Games, where people watch together. It probably also is a product of NBC emphasizing television content over online content. Even 18-29 year olds turn to TV for the Games, with 49% watching completely online. That’s far less than those 60 and up, but it shows there is still a way to go before the Internet Games. For more analysis, visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


March 29, 2012

No Pay for Play

Big time college sports might look like professional sports, but the athletes don’t get paid like it. That’s the way sports fans seem to like it, as well. Of the 620 college sports fans surveyed, 68% said college athletes should only get a scholarship, while 27% think they deserve a salary/stipend as well. Only 4% believe they should receive neither. Click here for more analysis and visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


March 29, 2012

Almost Like the Pros

There’s good news and bad news for big time college coaches. The good news is that, according a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, 39% of college sports fans think they should be paid as much as their professional coaching counterparts. The bad news is that 57% think they should get less, with 4% unsure. Click here for more analysis, and visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


March 29, 2012

Cheating and Trying

Do colleges cheat in recruiting? College sports fans think so. That’s according a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, where 55% of fans think cheating is a common practice, while 35% said it wasn’t and 10% were unsure. Click here for more analysis, and visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


March 29, 2012

Fans Want a College Football Playoff, Not a Longer March Madness

College football playoffs? A bigger NCAA tournament? The answers are mixed, according to a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. The majority (68%) want a college football playoff, while 20% prefer to stay with the BCS with 12% unsure. Conversely, only a small percent (4%) want an expanded men’s NCAA Division I basketball tournament, while 78% like it just as it is and 18% want fewer teams. Click here for more analysis, and visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll about the BCS or the NCAA Tournament.


December 15, 2011

The Packers Win Again

The Green Bay Packers win again. Only this time for the undefeated NFL franchise, it’s off the field. According to a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, American sports fans chose the Packers Super Bowl victory as the best sporting championship of 2011, selected by 36% of survey participants. The St. Louis Cardinals World Series title finished second with 30%, followed by the Dallas Mavericks NBA title with 15%. The NHL and US Open golf titles finished far behind. Click here for more analysis, and visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


 December 15, 2011

Goal! US Women’s Soccer Top 2011 Accomplishment

The US Women’s Soccer Team may not have won the World Cup in 2011, but their win over world power Brazil did win the prize as the best single sports accomplishment of the year. That’s according a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. Of the 624 sports fans surveyed nationally, 32% chose the soccer performance, far ahead of the 18% who chose the Dallas Mavericks sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Playoffs. Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit finished third of five choices with 15%. Underdog TCU winning the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin finished last with only 11%. Click here for more analysis, and visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


 December 15, 2011

Play Ball, Please

In the end, it’s the games that matter most. That’s according to a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication that asked sports fans nationwide to pick the story with the biggest impact on sports in 2011. 42% selected labor unrest in the NFL and NBA, far outpacing the 28% that selected scandals in college athletics as the most impactful story. Performance enhancing drugs and college conference realignment finished a distant third and fourth, with 15% and 12%, respectively. The results confirm that while crimes and scandals may get serious media attention and lip service, in the end, sports fans are far more concerned about whether games will be played than the morality of its participants. Click here for more analysis, and visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.


 December 15, 2011

The Year of the Quarterback

Is Aaron Rodgers the greatest of all time? For now, it seems he’s at least the greatest of 2011. That’s according to a Marist Poll done in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication that asked sports fans nationwide to pick the player that had the biggest impact on their sport in 2011. Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the runaway victor, selected by 32% of all survey participants. Miami Heat forward LeBron James finished second with 19%, followed by rookie NFL quarterback Tim Tebow with 15%. Foreign athletes Dirk Nowitski and Rory McIlroy finished in fourth and fifth with 13% and 12%, respectively, confirming America’s preference for American sports talent. Click here for more analysis, and visit the Center’s YouTube Channel for video commentary of the results. For complete results and methods, visit the Marist Poll.

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