The lighter side of real estate

The Best ACC College Towns for Sports Fans

We break down the criteria and rank the Atlantic Coast Conference cities in terms of how good they actually are for sports fans living there.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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In writing this post I wondered, at first, if I should tell you upfront that I have absolutely no experience or interest in College Sports. This might ruffle some feathers—but if I’ve learned anything in my writing for Movoto, it’s that some people seem to want to get ruffled.

So there it is. Until I started working on this post, I did not know what the Atlantic Coast Conference was, let alone about the big changes coming up for the ACC starting this July 1. That’s right: starting next month, the Atlantic Coast Conference as we know it will be made up of, not 12, but 15 schools, as Syracuse University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame join in. (And more changes on the horizon—in 2014, the Maryland Terrapins will be leaving for the Big 10, to be replaced in the ACC by the Louisville Cardinals!) But before all of these shifts happens, we thought it might be fun to look at the current 12 schools and find out which ACC towns are the best for sports fans.

Like I said, I don’t know much about sports, and I say this, not to defend any of the outdated or ill-formed sports analogies you might receive here, but to emphasize the validity of the research. I know nothing about these 12 current teams—so the following rankings are completely unbiased and based solely on the numbers.

And depending on your home team, you may need to strap on your helmet here, because the numbers revealed some definite differences in each of the towns. So without further ado, let’s kick off our list of the Top ACC Towns for Sports Fans. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, South Bend, and Louisville, meet your competition.

  1. Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Tar Heels
  2. College Park, MD: University of Maryland Terrapins
  3. Clemson, SC: Clemson University Tigers
  4. Raleigh, NC: NC State Wolfpack
  5. Durham, NC: Duke University Blue Devils
  6. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Hurricanes
  7. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Cavaliers
  8. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
  9. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State Seminoles
  10. Chestnut Hill, MA: Boston College Eagles
  11. Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech Hokies
  12. Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

I know. I can already hear your protests, Chestnut Hill, Blacksburg, and sad folks in Winston-Salem. But the numbers don’t lie. So, if you’re one of those fans who loves to dig into your favorite team’s stats, stay in your seats; the criteria we used is up next.

How We Did It

Ordinarily when Movoto creates our top 10 lists, we take the 50 to 100 most populous cities in the United States, research each based on our selected criteria, plug the numbers in, and wait with bated breath while the magical computer spits out our rankings. But as you clever sports fans know, better than I did, there are only 12 schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference. So this time around, I simply researched each of the ACC towns with the following criteria:

  • Sports bars per capita
  • Student population
  • Number of sports radio stations each town receives
  • Average season tickets price (both basketball and football)
  • Number of conference titles (across basketball, baseball, and football)
  • Number of national championships (across basketball, baseball, and football)
  • Number of wins over their rival school (both football and basketball)
  • The average fan attendance at last year’s games (football and basketball)

After I plugged the numbers in, I passed the ball to Movoto’s sport’s minded spreadsheet gurus. What came back was a list of winners and losers, and thankfully no ties. (I have been told that tying is bad for some reason.)

Speaking of ties, and terrible sports puns, read on to tie it all together and learn just why we picked each of these criteria and which towns did especially well in them.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Sports Bar

Source: Flickr user Paul Lowry

Sure, your town might have a lot of school spirit, and yeah maybe you and your buddies all have your team’s mascot tattooed on your lower back after that one long night, but if you don’t have a sports bar to gather and watch the games, you don’t have a shot at ranking at the top of our list. To find the number of sports bars per capita I turned to a source I’ve used before, Boston College actually took first with 65 sports bars for its town’s smaller population of 22,491. Compare that to Tallahassee with just 14 sports bars for over 180,000 Tallahasseeians and it’s clear the Seminoles are the losers in this game.

Students, Students Everywhere

What’s an Atlantic Coast Conference town without a high population of rowdy, team-spirited students? Well, according to the research, it might be Winston-Salem, NC. It came in last when ranking the percent of the town’s population that are students—just 7,351 of the town’s total population of over 230,000 are students. On the other side of the court, Clemson, SC and College Park, MD are made up almost entirely of students.

Sports Radio

Now here is something I never thought I’d type into the search bar on my computer: Where are the sports radio stations located in the U.S.? My search led me to where I found just how many sports radio stations each of the 12 ACC towns received. Atlanta, GA came in at No. 1 with a whopping seven sports radio stations. Tied for last were Durham, Winston-Salem, and Charlottesville with a mere two stations each.

Season Ticket Prices: More Than a Coin Toss

Football Tickets

Source: Flickr user Terren in Virginia

For those sports fans who want to skip the bar or the radio coverage altogether and head straight to the game, we decided to include the average season ticket price for both basketball and football. What came out was interesting.

Some of the schools that ranked the absolute worst for basketball (had the highest season ticket prices), ranked the best for football (the lowest season ticket prices), and vice-versa. For example, the average price to see one season of Tar Heels basketball is over $500, whereas you can grab a football season ticket for just over $200. I used the average price here because, as I’m sure you know better than I did, there are a lot of options for tickets.

There are general admission, alum, member tickets; there are various prices for various sections; and on top of all that, you also have to give a “donation” to the school (which is not so much a donation, as it is required), anywhere from $50 to $5,000. The worst place to buy football season tickets? Coral Gables, FL where tickets average over $400. On the up side, though, the Hurricanes have the best deal on basketball season tickets. I guess this flip-flopping just shows that most schools can’t have it all.

Number of Conference Titles

While finding the average cost of season tickets was something of a dicker-rod, finding the number of conference titles for each school was an easy touchdown. Each ACC school readily lists their number of conference titles across the three big ones—basketball, baseball, and football. And while it was easy info to come by, the results might surprise you. North Carolina Tar Heels came in first with 43 conference titles under their belt, the runner up was Duke with 31 titles, and in third, Clemson with 29. Boston College pulled in last with a grand total of 0 conference titles… Boston College, better luck next year.

Number of National Championships

Again, another easy score in finding the National Championship information. In being consistent with our conference titles criteria, we decided to use the National Championships just in the big three. Miami took first with 9 (4 in baseball, 5 in football); North Carolina took second with six (all in basketball); Maryland came in third with 3 (2 in football, 1 in basketball), and… Boston, once again, came in last with zero. But hey, I hear they have a really great School of Education!

Born Enemies

Duke Football

Source: Flickr user Roshan Yadama

There are some sports rivalries so volatile and infamous, that even I know about them: UNC and Duke, Florida State and Miami… Okay, those were the only two that I actually knew about, but apparently there are lots more. So to find out which schools are rivals, I turned to the oh-so-extensive Wikipedia “College Rivalry” page. Here are the rivalries I used to determine how many wins each school had over their football nemesis:

  • Boston/Virginia Tech
  • Georgia Tech/Clemson
  • Florida State/Miami
  • Maryland/Virginia
  • NC State/UNC
  • Wake Forest/UNC
  • UNC/Duke

And in basketball:

  • UNC/Duke
  • NC State/UNC
  • Maryland/Duke
  • NC State/Wake Forest

Now clearly there is some overlapping going on here and the rivalries between schools vary from sport to sport. So this wasn’t necessarily a clear shot. But in the end, with the aid of super advanced technology (a computer), we were able to rank which schools had the most wins over their rivals. The Tar Heels came in first once again, in both football and basketball. They’ve beat Duke 64 times in football and have dominated all of their basketball rivals a total of 280 times. No wonder they have so many enemies—from where I’m standing, it’s pretty clear they’re the best. And one of the most important parts of a good ACC town? Having the best ACC team to cheer for.

See You in the Stands

While it’s important to have a winning team, it’s also important to have a town that supports said team, i.e., actually goes to the games. So we turned to ESPN and to find out the average attendance for games in 2012 for football and basketball, respectively. Now I’m not much of a sports fan, but I am starting to see a trend here. Can you guess which school was No. 1 in attendance for basketball? Yep, you guessed it: the Miami Hurricanes. No, I’m just kidding—those guys came in dead last. Number one in basketball attendance was, of course, UNC. They didn’t rank so well in football ticket sales, but that’s no surprise (they came in fifth.) First place for football attendance was the Clemson University Tigers with an average of 79,429, and in last place, Duke’s Blue Devils with an average of just 28,170 for 2012.

The Final Score

So to get our rankings, we took all of these criteria, applied them to each of the current 12 Atlantic Coast Conference towns, did some fancy computing, and—alley oop!—our list was born. As I’ve clearly used up my supply of sports lingo, I’ll just wrap up with this little gem: Whether you’re a Tar Heel in Chapel Hill, perhaps a Tiger in Clemson, or maybe even Cavalier in Charlottesville, no matter which ACC town you’re in, you’re a winner in our book. Unless, of course, you’re in Winston-Salem, North Carolina—this town seems about as exciting for sports fans as Indianapolis is for health nuts.

Go Team!

Best ACC Cities Ranking

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posted on: June 4, 2013
[views], 4 comments


  1. Fan Man

    This is an interesting list of popular sports cities, I would agree with them. Its a shame the cities that don’t have pro teams are some of the most passionate sports fans in America… Cities that have minor league baseball teams for example or big on high school football don’t get the credit they deserve! We believe all fans make major contributions to professional sports, without them buying sports merchandise or watching on tv or eating in sports bars what were would we be?

  2. TheNickyB

    Too bad the Clemson photo was taken at Auburn’s stadium with Auburn’s fans…

  3. Ty

    You’ve clearly never been to any of these towns if you have Duke and UVA above Virginia Tech. And Maryland second? Laughable. This article is a waste of space on an already cluttered internet.

  4. cindyhipps

    I am glad I am not the only one to see that the football stadium depicted with Clemson flags is taken in the Auburn stadium. Come on guys, do you know how easy it is to get the real deal!


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