We have been surveying different fanbases around the nation to see how their culture compares to Clemson’s. We have looked at other schools from the ACC & the SEC. Today, we are going to look at a few prime examples from the Big Ten & PAC-12.
It isn’t hard to figure out what Buckeye Nation prioritizes above all else: ‘winning’. I see this as both their opinion about what defines their culture and their strongest ambition. Other words include ‘excellence’ and ‘pride’. Once you start to peel the layers off the top, you see some other words that tell us a bit more: ‘brotherhood’, ‘tradition’ and ‘loyalty’. We also see an abbreviation that is very popular in the state of Ohio: ‘TTUN’, which stands for ‘That team up north’, their common name for the Michigan Wolverines because they won’t actually say the name ‘Michigan’. They also use tape to put X’s over any sign that has an M on it. I personally appreciate this level of petty. Speaking of the Wolverines…..
Ask the fanbase to define their culture, and the most common word used was ‘culture’. Next word that catches your eye: ‘university’. That one may not be as generic as you think. My brother-in-law is a Michigan man, plus a couple friends from high school are big fans, so I have been following Michigan for a while now. There is a definite schism at the University of Michigan between the athletic programs and the academic side. That is what I see in this cloud, and believe it or not, it doesn’t look like the athletic side dominates this even slightly. I see ‘team’, ‘athletes’ and ‘winning’, but I also see words like ‘academics’, ‘classroom’, ‘student’ and ‘accountability’ – words I don’t see that often in other clouds. Athletics is important to the Wolverine fanbase, but it isn’t the only thing they see as important. My observation of Michigan over the years is that their fans respect and appreciate both the academic and athletic side, and if anything they are frustrated when those two sides aren’t playing nice with each other.
A more recent addition to the Big Ten, Nebraska is a school with a reputation for a very dedicated fanbase. That said, their centerpiece was again ‘culture’. We see other prominent words like ‘football’, ‘team’, ‘work’ and ‘loyalty’, which makes sense as they are very much a football school, but overall, I was a bit disappointed that this cloud turned out as generic as it did. This is like some of the SEC schools we looked at: just because you have a dedicated fanbase that loves football doesn’t mean you have a definable culture.
When you consider that Los Angeles and the SoCal region have a reputation that they don’t really love sports, you might think the Trojan fanbase’s response to the survey would be light, or the word cloud would be generic. Not the case here. The centerpiece is ‘fight’, which comes from their cheer ‘Fight On!’, but very close in size are ‘family’ and ‘tradition’. ‘Football’ is large too, but we also see a few words that we haven’t observed very often, like ‘scholarly’, ‘courageous’ and ‘ambitious’. I think it is interesting that while Nebraska did have the word ‘family’, it wasn’t represented very prominently in the three Big Ten examples, but when we look at a large, private institution in California, suddenly ‘family’ stands out. A lot of people might not appreciate this, but USC’s cloud is much more like Clemson’s cloud than a lot of the programs we have looked at thus far.
Ah, Oregon, you went generic. Biggest words are ‘culture’ and ‘football’, which we are learning is a good way to say you don’t really have a defining theme for your culture. We do see ‘Nike’, which refers to the massive sponsorship from alum Phil Knight. I guess that is the best way to define their culture: multiple unique uniform and helmet sets designed by Nike. It is honestly what most people think nationwide when they think of the Ducks.
Like I said, I didn’t expect USC’s cloud to be that remarkable, so I tried to think of at least one more PAC school that might have a stronger culture. Washington and Utah were good options, but I selected Arizona State because I had heard for years that their fanbase was surprisingly strong. They have often been described as a program that has the support to be great if they could just put the pieces together. I joined ASU groups, I got enough responses, I put them into the word cloud generator, and I got…generic responses. Bummer. When I looked closer, I did see one very intriguing word: ‘frustrated’. As happy as they were with head coach Herm Edwards just a couple years ago, the team didn’t break through as expected last season, and a recruiting scandal resulting from the COVID lockdown has caused several coaches to resign or be fired. Some wonder if Edwards is next.
Overall, I think the Big Ten and PAC-12 are a mixed bag, though I admit I might have picked the wrong schools. Had I surveyed schools like Iowa, Wisconsin and/or Utah, I might have found stronger results. While I can see elements of unique culture in Ohio State’s & Michigan’s clouds, I did have to wade through the generic responses to see it.
Most unexpected result: of the six schools surveyed, the USC Trojans has the most definable culture, and has the closest cloud to Clemson’s. Disbelieve it all you want, but it’s true.
Next: The Big 12