Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who Travels, Who Doesn't

When the NCAA Board of Directors voted to add a 12th regular season game in major college football starting in 2006, the hope among fans was that it would rekindle intersectional rivalries.

Who could forget USC-Alabama of the 1970s or Notre Dame-Miami of the 1980s?

Instead, the 12th game merely exacerbated a disturbing trend of big-time teams scheduling home victories against lesser opponents. Nowhere is this more the case than in the Southeastern Conference, whose teams have traveled the fewest number of miles in the past 10 years. Check out the above chart.

Today, in the first of three parts, we are going to provide you a look at who travels and who doesn't.

This is made possible by Richard of Map Game Day. All of this data is available through a new section on his site titled the Travel Map. The site contains road game data for regular season games from the 1998 through the 2007 seasons. Bowl games and games at neutral sites are not included and the mileages are direct distances calculated from the home team stadium to the away team stadium.

This is one incredible piece of work. You'll be able to access any conference or team from drop-down menus on the left-hand side of any page and an info box will give you percentages as to how a conference or team have fared in road games.

On the right-hand side of any page, you'll be able to access all the scores by season. And if you click the dots on a Google Map, it will provide you with how the conference or team fared at that venue. The data reflects current conference alignments.
Here are some of our findings:
  • Georgia has traveled a total of 358 miles for nonconference road games since 1998. By comparison, Hawaii has traveled 72,918 miles.
  • Teams from the Southeastern Conference hold down seven of the top eight spots for teams having traveled the fewest miles. This includes Florida, which last played a nonconference road game outside of the Sunshine State on Sept. 21, 1991, at Syracuse (a 38-21 Gator loss).
  • The Western Athletic Conference is the most traveled conference, having covered 327,521 miles. The SEC is last at 42,141.
On Friday, we will break down we each of the BCS conferences. On Saturday, we will display data for the non-BCS conferences. Dive in and let us know what you think.

Update: Just to remind everybody, all of this data reflects current conference alignments. An anonymous poster to the site has made a great point, one that is likely to bring Hawaii's distance down dramatically. Richard is going to rerun the data Thursday night and the Wiz is going to repost any corrections on Saturday. Here is the post that I am referring to:

"This is actually pretty misleading. It only takes into account the teams that are currently in their respective conferences and not the conference alignments from 1998-2005. If you look closely at Hawaii, they have only played 6 non-conference road games over that span (BYU '02, USC '03, UNLV '03, Mich. St. '05, Bama '06 and UNLV '07), so they should be much farther down the list. All those games against Tulsa, SMU, Rice, etc., were conference games in the years they were played. Good idea to do a list like this, but what he's done is inaccurate as far as conference/non-conference travel."

With the recalculated figures, WAC, Conference USA, ACC and Big East numbers will change slightly. Hawaii will feel the biggest impact. In the interest of fairness and doing what we believe is the right thing, this is the only way to go to protect the purity of the information.

21 comments:

Lance's Other Nut said...

Dan Shanoff thinks this is crap

Christopher Williams said...

Well the fact that Hawaii is located where it is it would be obvious they would travel more.

mlmintampa said...

As a Gator, I will admit our scheduling is not, um, adventureous.
For the rest of the SEC, we're pretty bunched up, so there isn't much travel.

Anonymous said...

mlmintampa: This is about non-conference schedules, so it has less to do with a bunched-up conference and more to do with a conference that's afraid to play road games against good non-conference opponents.

Five Pound Bag said...

The problem is UGA V gets carsick if he has to ride more than an hour, so they cut down on the trips for his sake.

Anonymous said...

They way the BCS is setup it's no wonder that schedule strength is lacking. Hawaii may have traveled more miles (Obvious alert!) but their schedule ranked 137 in the Sagarin ratings. 20 Div 1-AA teams had tougher skeds.

UGA travels to G Tech every other year; UF to FSU, UF picks up Miami next year.

Teams need all the home games they can get since football is usually the only profitable sport at any school. That's why PSU won't play Pitt for one example of many.

Jeff said...

I truly dislike the idea of miles as a metric. Of course Hawaii has to travel more than anyone else! Does it suck for them? Yes. Does it mean their scheduling is automatically more legit than any other teams? No.

Simply because a Pac-10/Big 10 matchup puts more miles on the jet than a SEC/ACC game does not make it "more legit" OOC scheduling.

A much fairer comparative metric than miles traveled would be number of away games vs. BCS opponents. Giving UGA flack for scheduling only 6 OOC away games in ten years is fair, but complaining about the miles logged is silly.

Kevin McGuire said...

It is absurd to see Penn State on a list like this. This is exactly why my Nittany Lions have fallen into mediocrity. Paterno, as much as I love him, has stated that the reason they "can't" schedule Pitt is because they need to schedule more home games for the athletic department and university.

When the 12th game became the norm Penn State should have done something to make their schedule more attractable not just for fans, but for recruits to send a message; "Come to Penn State and not only will you be the best, but you will play the best in some of the great sites in college football." Instead we get 1-AA schools and weak teams from lesser conferences.

This is a great post. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Georgia has not traveled far for non-conference opponents and many Georgia fans are very glad that the trend is ending. However, some rival fans of the Dawgs have often pointed to the lack of distance as if that in and of itself makes Georgia’s non-conference opponents weak. To use an example of a non conference foe UGA has faced often on the road I will point to Clemson. Just because in 2003 Tech opened up at BYU ( well over a thousand miles away) and UGA opened up at Clemson (about 65 miles away) doesn’t have a single thing to do with the actual difficulty of the opponents, in fact, in this case the closer opponent was much tougher (even though Tech did lose to BYU and UGA won 30-0). Are the opposing fans at a road game somehow not as loud since the visiting team is close?

Just so no one is confused, I am very glad that my Dawgs will start to play farther away if for no other reason than to garner more national attention. I just don’t buy the whole argument that UGA’s non conference is so much easier than most team’s just because Tech and Clemson are nearby.

Anonymous said...

This is actually pretty misleading. It only takes into account the teams that are currently in their respective conferences and not the conference alignments from 1998-2005. If you look closely at Hawaii, they have only played 6 non-conference road games over that span (BYU '02, USC '03, UNLV '03, Mich. St. '05, Bama '06 and UNLV '07), so they should be much farther down the list. All those games against Tulsa, SMU, Rice, etc., were conference games in the years they were played. Good idea to do a list like this, but what he's done is inaccurate as far as conference/non-conference travel.

Anonymous said...

This is all a fancy way of saying that the population is more dense in the Eastern part of the country than in the western part of the country.

Thanks for enlightening us all.

Next, can we have a series of stats that proves people in Montana drive a greater disctance to see grandma on Christmans than people in Maryland?

Anonymous said...

While I agree that OOC scheduling is a joke. The SEC and ACC basically share a good part of their real estate, so any games played between those two conferences is likely to result in a short trip.

A playoff would go a long way towards allowing teams to schedule better OOC games, but as long as being undefeated is the only metric that counts we will continue to see teams scheduling weak opponents and cashing in for now rather than hoping to cash in by being part of the postseason.

Moon Cricket said...

All of Notre Dames games are out of conference.

Nick Saban doesn't have time for this shit.

Drew Dawg said...

Future Georgia non-conference schedule:
'08 @ Arizona St.
'09 @ Oklahoma St.
'10 @ Colorado
'12 @ Louisville
'15 @ Oregon

Rackin' up those frequent fliers!

Ted said...

fyi - Uga travels about 230 miles - to home games. (approximate distance of Savannah to Athens)

Lou said...

Freakin SEC.

USC: Anyone, anywhere, any time.

Boz said...

Georgia (anon) fan,

you make it sound as if Clemson and UGa play every year like Tech and UGa do. cmon man.

your schedule is crap. admit it. the SEC is crap. admit that.

every year everyone touts the SEC as the best conference hands down and every year in bowl games they lose more than they win.

write that down.

as far as saying your non-conference schedule is getting better in the future...well it has no where to go but up.

Anonymous said...

"every year everyone touts the SEC as the best conference hands down and every year in bowl games they lose more than they win."

Bowl Results for the SEC:
06-07: 6-3
05-06: 3-3
04-05: 3-3
03-04: 5-2
02-03: 3-3

Which of these years did the SEC lose more than it won as you stated? Might want to do some research before saying something that is straight up false.

Power Monster said...

I have to admit, I'm shuked as to why you would directly compare the miles traveled by Hawaii with the miles traveled by Georgia.

I do kung fu, so I travel all over the world, but at least I understand that Hawaii is on an island. None of them have suffered 3rd degree burns on their hands while having to work in a kitchen.

Do you understand where I'm going with this?

4EverLSU said...

While miles traveled can affect a game, one can't harp on their conference. Like a poster said...anyone can discount Hawaii's miles traveled because of where they're located. If Guam U were to play in any game, they'd likely have Hawaii beat. For a true comparison, I'd like to see a team's OOC game's miles traveled comparison to how many fans attended the game. Certain schools are known for their fan allegiance. Just because it's an away game, knowing you have 10K+ (more?) fans rooting for you means a lot. Where are these comparisons?

Anonymous said...

UGAg is by far the luckiest team in the SEC. If this team had to travel 10,000 miles per year they would be wore out, beat up, less educated and not in the top ten. NO LIE, Just fact