Northwestern football fans are among the happiest in the country.
In ESPN’s recently released Fan Happiness Index Ranking, Northwestern fans placed ninth among 128 FBS programs and second in the Big Ten behind Ohio State. You all earned the “elated” label given to only the Top 25.
The ranking is built from six categories: program power, rivalry dominance, coaching stability, recruiting trend, revenue growth and Twitter buzz. You can read more about how ESPN derived these categories and their definitions under the “methodology” tab.
Northwestern’s program power - based on results from the last five years and current FPI - is fourth in the Big Ten behind Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State. The Wildcats notably rank higher than Michigan.
The No. 9 ranking is obviously bolstered by rivalry dominance. Northwestern has beaten Illinois four of the past five seasons, earning the third highest rating in the conference. ESPN nicely illustrated this by a cartoon Northwestern fan/ball wearing the HAT.
Coaching stability, based on Phil Steele’s coaching stability rankings, is another anchor for Northwestern. “Pat Fitzgerald is responsible for two of the three 10-win seasons in team history and he has won four of the last five against Illinois,” the index reads.
Recruiting trend is defined as the difference in percentage of five-, four- and three-star recruits in current class vs. expectation and the Wildcats are slightly above average in this category.
Revenue growth, however, has been a strength for Northwestern. The difference between revenue earned in 2016 relative to the 2012-2015 average has the Wildcats fifth in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue.
Finally, Twitter buzz is where you all have contributed. This is the percentage of tweets from fans that are positive and Northwestern is right in the middle of the conference for this category.
Interestingly, Pat Fitzgerald’s team is the only one with seven wins or less than finished within the top 20. With a team poised to contend for the Big Ten West crown, the fan base has good reason to be happy. This is an exciting time to be a Northwestern football fan and ESPN’s Fan Happiness Index Ranking reflects that.
Oh, and Illinois football fans fall under the “distraught” category at No. 111.