It’s long been a joke among Aggies that their former conference rival, the University of Texas, has a fan base loaded with people that never attended the school. A popular t-shirt even says, “If you see someone wearing an A&M shirt, they went to A&M. If you see someone wearing a t.u. shirt, they went to Walmart.” These so-called “t-shirt fans” are often ridiculed on message boards such as TexAgs and Aggie Yell for caring so much about a team that they have no affiliation with.
According to a study by researchers at Facebook for an article on SB Nation, this old Aggie mantra appears to be no myth.
The study focused on finding the percentage of fans that “liked” a particular school’s official athletic page that also claimed to have graduated or attended that university on their personal profiles. According to the article, “fan bases have grown past alumni bases, with teams serving as points of state and regional pride.” That is often true for many of the more traditional athletic powers across the country, and was evident in the study, which looked at all schools in the “Power 5” conferences.
Texas A&M had the highest concentration of fans that actually attended the respective school, with 57% of their total likes coming from alumni. They were joined in the top 10 fan-to-student ratios by Colorado (45%), Boston College (37%), Mississippi State (35%), California-Berkeley (34%), Texas Tech (34%), Purdue (33%), Virginia Tech (32%), Illinois (32%) and Iowa State (30%).
The bottom 10 consisted of several traditional powers, including the Aggies’ friends in Austin.
Notre Dame came in with the lowest ratio, with only 4% of their Facebook fans claiming an affiliation with the school. They were followed by North Carolina (5%), Oregon (7%), Georgia (7%), Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, Alabama (all 8%), Kentucky (9%) and Northwestern (9%).
It’s a source of pride for Aggies to be a part of a fan base that has deep ties to their school, and for other schools, having a national brand that sells merchandise from coast-to-coast is a top priority.
A&M has done just fine without a huge “t-shirt” following, but moving from the Big 12 to the SEC, having a recent Heisman Trophy winner and a head football coach that places a huge emphasis on innovation in recruiting the best athletes, the landscape of the Texas football is shifting towards College Station, after being dominated by the Longhorns for several decades.
As that happens, more and more people across the state and nation will tune into Aggie games. That increased exposure leads to more sales, which increase athletic department profits.
Add those profits to an already supportive alumni base, and look out.