It’s only a month before that glorious time of the year known as Football Season. If you’re like the football diehards in the Movoto Real Estate office, you’re already preparing for your season-opener party and staring at your grill longingly trying to wipe your mind of all those constant baseball highlights on SportsCenter. Thankfully, it’s almost here. That said, to get you through this hardest part of the year, we decided to give you sporting fans something to argue about.
What Did We Come Up With?
We ranked the best SEC cities for sports fans. And after all our data was tabulated, it was Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama, that emerged holding the football. Do you find this surprising? We didn’t. Alabama has quite a strong sports legacy. Here is our full list of the best SEC cities for sports fans ranked in order:
The Winners and Losers
- University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
- Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS
- Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
- University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
- Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
- University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
- University of Georgia, Athens, GA
- University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
- University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
- Auburn University, Auburn, AL
- University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
- University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
- University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
- Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Now, before you rabid Vanderbilt fans start complaining, take a gander at our criteria and then jump down to the comment section to slug it out. (If you’re not an SEC fan, check out a similar post on the best city for ACC fans.) Play ball!
What Makes a Fan City
To come up with our Big Deal Lists, we look at various criteria and rank each city. In this case, each SEC city received a score from 1 to 14 across 10 criteria. We then took the average score across all 10 criteria. The winner, in this case the best SEC city for sports fans, was the city with the lowest average score. You can learn more about Movoto’s Big Deal Lists here.
Here are the criteria we looked at:
- Sports bar per capita
- Sports radio stations per capita
- Total conference titles (football, basketball, baseball)
- Total national championships (football, basketball, baseball)
- Total number of students vs. a city’s population
- Wins over rival (football)
- Wins over rival (basketball)
- Average fan attendance vs. arena capacity (football)
- Average fan attendance vs. arena capacity (basketball)
Each separate category had its own winners and losers, which we’ll detail below along with why we chose that particular criterion.
Where to Go: Before, After, and During a Game
A true sports city knows how to tailgate. This means grills, large plates of cooked meat, and some type of backyard/asphalt friendly game—probably bean bag toss (also known as cornhole). For this category, we tapped sports writer and Movoto friend Rick Limpert for help. Last year, Limpert was the “Tailgate Fan” writer for CBS Atlanta. We asked him to rank each SEC city by its tailgates. The University of Mississippi easily came in first. Close behind were LSU and Auburn University.
“Why head inside the stadium when you have the sights, sounds, and tastes of The Grove?,” Limpert said of Ole Miss. “You have to see it to believe it.”
Drinking Buddies, High Fives Too
Oh, sports bars, those weirdly similar locations across the country, how we adore you!
The number of sports bars in each city made our list because they provide fans a location to watch their favorite team (home or away games) in the company of like-minded folk. According to our calculations, MSU has the most sports bars per person. Trailing behind were the University of Missouri and the University of Tennessee.
Dulcet Tones of Enraged Fans
If you can’t make it to the game or have prior engagements, you can always turn on the radio. It also doesn’t hurt that radio stations provide a near round-the-clock updates on your favorite sports team, regardless of whether it’s the correct season or not.
For this criterion, we found the number of sports radio stations each city receives. Once again Ole Miss scored a touchdown. Other SEC cities with plenty of airwave space devoted to sports include Auburn University and the University of Missouri, which placed second and third, respectively.
Our Team Is Better Than Your Team
One of the best parts of rooting for a team is watching your boys (and girls) trounce an opposing team. It’s even sweeter when the team that just got shellacked happens to be in the same conference.
For this criterion we looked at the number of conference wins across the Big 3—men’s football, basketball, and baseball. This included the conference tournament champions and regular season champions. The University of Kentucky dunked over every other school in the category. A distant second was LSU, and then Texas A&M came in third.
No, Really, We Are Way Better Than Your Team
What’s better than your team proving it’s better than its conference opponents? How about winning a national championship.
Again, we looked at the number of national championships across the big three sports teams. Who took home the gold? Far and away, the University of Alabama strolled off with this criteria. Right behind Alabama were LSU and Kentucky.
We Come Here to Learn—and Cheer
There’s no arguing that students of any particular school have a penchant for cheering on the home team. In this category, we looked at the number of enrolled students and compared them to a city’s population. We then figured out what percentage of the student body would make up the city’s population. In this category, Ole Miss took the top spot, followed by MSU, and Texas A&M.
Our Rivalry Is Better Than Your Rivalry
Every school needs a good rivalry. However, not all great rivalries are strictly inter-conference. In this section we looked at the men’s football and basketball teams and the number of times each school as defeated their rival. For simplicity’s sake, we used the same rivalry across the two sports teams. Here are the rivals we used:
- Auburn University v. University of Alabama
- Louisiana State University v. University of Mississippi
- Mississippi State University v. University of Mississippi
- Texas A&M University v. University of Texas
- University of Arkansas v. University of Texas
- University of Florida v. Florida State University
- University of Georgia v. Georgia Tech
- University of Kentucky v. University of Louisville
- University of Mississippi v. Mississippi State University
- University of Missouri v. University of Kansas
- University of South Carolina v. Clemson University
- University of Tennessee v. University of Alabama
- University of Alabama v. Auburn University
- Vanderbilt University v. University of Tennessee
Feel free to argue over our choices in the comments section. We did ask sports aficionados before we compiled the rivalries, though. We should also note this doesn’t take into account whether a team has a winning record versus their rival; we strictly looked at the number of wins.
Gridiron Showdown: Football
Who trounced their hated rival the most? When it comes to football, the University of Georgia came in first. Close behind were Mississippi State University and Louisiana State University, respectively. Note that we looked at wins over rivals not popularity of rivalry. Sorry Alabama/Auburn fans.
Razzle Dazzle: Basketball Rivalry
The team with the most wins over its rival was MSU, followed by a tie between the University of Mississippi and Louisiana State University.
Standing Room Only
In a somewhat similar criterion, we looked at the average fan attendance across the men’s football and basketball home games versus the official seating capacity of each school’s sports venue. Before we begin, realize that some schools having standing-room ticket sales. We’ll start with football:
Standing Room Only: Football
When it comes to a packed house, Texas A&M wins. On average, the Aggies stadium was literally standing room only last year. Our research showed that the average fan attendance in 2012 was 87,104 while the arena size was 82,589. This is about 105 percent of capacity.
First runner up was MSU at about 101 percent of its stadium’s capacity, followed by LSU at slightly over 100 percent capacity.
Standing Room Only: Basketball
The makeup of the schools with basketball fans hanging from the rafters is a bit different than in football. It’s understandable in some ways. Most schools are either football or basketball schools. Rare is the university that is both. The University of Kentucky walked away with a win in this category. Last year, UK’s coliseum held about 101 percent of its capacity. Placing second and third were Vanderbilt at about 96 percent and the University of Florida at 90 percent.
Next Year’s Ranking
With only a couple of months left to kick off, maybe now is the time to start planning how to help your city and team climb up our ranking for next year. Just remember that Tuscaloosa has one heck of a head start. Our suggestion would be to start with some practice tailgating.