The 2010-2011 college football season was the most scandalous in NCAA history. From Michigan to Auburn, and OSU to UNC, programs all over the country were subjected to NCAA investigations last year. Though infringements on NCAA scholarship and amateurism rules have long been a part of college football, the sheer volume of scandals in 2010 has highlighted what a big problem they have become.

As of 2011, nearly all schools in major football conferences have committed NCAA violations. In fact, of all of the teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, only 14% have clean records–of those “innocent teams,” only four compete in major conferences. Since illegal activities and rule violations seem to have become the norm, SeatGeek wanted to know if these NCAA scandals have had any effect on the ticket market.

We compared 2010 regular-season ticket prices between some of the most historically controversial Division I teams and three of those that still have clean slates (Stanford, Boston College, and Penn State):

As the graph shows, we did not find much of a negative correlation between a team’s propensity to violate NCAA rules and their average ticket prices.  The number of a team’s NCAA infringements doesn’t seem to have any negative impact on their ticket demand. SMU is the only school that shows low ticket prices coupled with a high scandal record– this is undoubtedly because they have still not recovered from the NCAA “death penalty” that shut down their program in 1987.

It’s no secret that some of the most popular teams historically have been the biggest rule breakers (Michigan, OSU, etc…).  Fans don’t gravitate towards the most “ethical” of teams, but rather toward the most successful.  This trend is reflected in our comparison of 2010 ticket prices and all-time program success rank (as determined by ESPN’s prestige rankings):As predicted, the lower (better) a team’s rank, the higher their 2010 regular season prices–regardless of the school’s reputation as law-abiding or seasoned “cheater.”

SeatGeek also wanted to see if these scandals had any short-term, immediate effects on secondary ticket prices. We looked at at ticketing data for the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Auburn Tigers–two schools that underwent NCAA investigations in 2010.

From August 1st up to November 4th, Auburn football ticket prices averaged $118. On November 4th, news broke about an NCAA investigation into quarterback Cam Newton’s recruitment. For the week following the announcement, Auburn tickets averaged $310. Similarly, Ohio State ticket prices were $108 higher than the previous season average for the week after several players were caught selling memorabilia.

So, it turns out that an NCAA scandal can actually benefit a guilty team by increasing demand for their tickets.  Undoubtedly, this is a result of the increased press coverage and publicity that comes with an NCAA investigation. In an industry that is becoming numb to illegal practices, it seems that not even fans can be phased by these embarrassing scandals.

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