In this discussion about culture, we began by discussing the definition, and then looked at the way Clemson’s fanbase defined the program’s culture by putting their responses into a word cloud. After reviewing the responses, I decided to look at other fanbases to see how they perceive their own school’s culture. I was curious how they would compare to Clemson’s word cloud. Was Clemson’s culture as unique as many perceive it to be? What schools were most like Clemson’s culture? Would there be a difference from conference to conference? From Power Five to Group of Five?
After I was able to join some Facebook groups for other teams, I asked the fanbase to define their school’s culture and gave them time to respond. Then I gathered the answers and put them into a word cloud generator. I did try to remove some words, such as the names of the schools, their nicknames and abbreviations. If I didn’t, the most prominent words in their cloud would be their own names. I understand a lot of UNC fans will say “Go Heels!” but that really doesn’t tell us much. I’m not perfect, so sometimes those identifiers did slip through the cracks. There will also be generic words, like ‘culture’ and ‘school’ that are common in responses.
I decided to first consider Clemson’s fellow conference mates from the ACC first (football only – we will look at Notre Dame later).
This isn’t a surprise, but it is relatively unique. I didn’t see another school where an individual was as closely related to the culture as Bobby Bowden was to Florida State. Coach Bowden left his head coaching job at West Virginia to take over the Seminole program in 1976. Before that, the name probably most associated with the program was Burt Reynolds, who played for the Seminoles in the mid-1950’s, and then became a famous actor afterwards. Once Coach Bowden built the Seminole program, they became national contenders for the next three decades. While Florida State’s results on the field have been varied over the past ten years, Coach Bowden’s influence continues to shape the culture today. The other key words here are “football”, “winning” and “history”. I know a few Seminole fans, and the last few years have been hard on them. They have a lot of pride in the history of their football team, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this fuels the fanbase while they struggle through the leaner times since their 2013 National Championship. The word ‘family’ is featured, but not as prominently as it is in Clemson’s word cloud.
It appears that the word ‘way’ was the centerpiece of UNC’s word cloud because the phrase ‘Tar Heel Way’ was a common response. This indicates that they do perceive their culture and traditions to be unique, and possibly superior to other programs. Otherwise, we see ‘blue’, ‘winning’ and ‘team’ featured prominently. ‘Family’ also features in their word cloud. While it isn’t as prominent as Bobby Bowden was in FSU’s cloud, we do see Dean Smith’s name featured here. While Smith wasn’t the first big-time coach in Carolina history, he is the name most associated with the basketball program, and still fondly remembered by the fanbase, as he should be.
In the previous installment when we examined Clemson’s word cloud, we noted that ‘Dabo’ was featured, but now after seeing how prominently Bowden and Smith are featured in FSU’s and UNC’s clouds respectively, we realize ‘Dabo’ wasn’t as big a response as we might have expected. The memories of Coach Bowden and Coach Smith are huge for their repsective fanbases. It will be interesting to see how names like Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes feature in upcoming clouds.
I did not know what to expect from Virginia’s fanbase. I didn’t get an enormous response to my query about culture, but I did get enough to create a cloud. It just wasn’t very informative. The generic words like ‘culture’ and ‘program’ were the most prominent. The ‘UVA’ abbreviation snuck through on this one – my bad. We do see ‘academics’ and ‘excellence’ featured, two words often used together in responses, which isn’t a shock since UVa’s reputation academically is quite well-regarded. ‘Tony’ is men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett. Some funny inclusions here are the words ‘mediocrity’, ‘shady’ and ‘infuriates’. It looks like we had a couple bitter Cavalier fans who weren’t as complimentary of their program as most.
Well, look at that word in the middle. ‘Family’. Pretty dominating. This doesn’t shock me. I have met a lot of Hokie’s over the years. I knew someone when I was enrolled at Clemson that had transferred from Virginia Tech, and one of the things she enlightened me to was that the schools were very similar. Both had a focus on engineering. Both were in relatively rural areas. Both had a strong fanbase for their football teams. The Hokies were just starting to roll in football at that point in the mid-90s, and over the next few years would explode upon the national stage. When we note that ‘community’, ‘hard’ and ‘working’ are also featured, we realize they have an appreciation for more than just success on the field or the court. Of the schools I looked at, this is easily the most similar ACC cloud to Clemson’s. Also of note are the words ‘UT’ and ‘PROSIM’, which is the school’s motto ‘Ut Prosim’, which means ‘That I May Serve’.
These weren’t the only schools I attempted to survey, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to put much together beyond this. My wife’s favorite school is NC State, and I have attempted to join a few of their groups over the years, but only one has allowed me in. I have met enough Wolfpackers to know they have a strong following, but I didn’t get many responses from the one group that welcomed me. Of the seven responses I got, two focused on the fact that they were from a multi-generational State family. If you follow football recruiting, you may remember Will Shipley had State on his short-list because his parents went to school there. I have heard of a few recruits who chose State or considered them significantly because of family-ties to the school. I think this is a very cool aspect of their culture. NC State has a similar curriculum to Clemson and Virginia Tech but differs in that it is in an urban area, so it would have been interesting to see how similar or different a Wolfpack cloud would have been to those two clouds.
My mom did some post-grad work at Duke, but I knew it would be hard to get a cloud for the Blue Devils. Even with Duke’s popularity on the basketball court, their online presence is limited. Had I gotten more responses, it was easy to see that Coach K would dominate that cloud. I should note that most of the schools that had a former coach feature prominently in their cloud were from the ACC.
Biggest disappointment: Miami. Two groups welcomed me, but I got few responses. I guess that reinforces their reputation for being a soft fanbase. You would think with all the new hires and plans for a new stadium that The U fanbase would be a little more enthusiastic.
In hindsight, I should have tried to join some Louisville groups. I am curious to know how they regard their programs given the turmoil of the last few years.
Next: The SEC. Does it just mean more?