The Unbearable Heaviness of Being (a Husker Fan)
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

The Unbearable Heaviness of Being (a Husker Fan)

August 22, 2017

How happy are you, Husker fans? Seems like a question you could answer on your own, but ESPN is going to do it for you anyway.

The “Worldwide Leader in Sports” is also measuring sadness (or happiness) now via its “Fan Happiness Index.” To ESPN’s credit, it put some rigor into calculating these rankings. Here’s the methodology. Disagree with the model as you see fit, but at least there is a model.

Program power: Combination of strength of records from 2012-2016 and current FPI compared to recent history.

Rivalry dominance: Combination of wins above expectation over rivals in past five seasons and how a team’s FPI compares to its rivals’.

Coaching stability: How close a coach is to being fired, based on Phil Steele’s coaching stability rankings.

Recruiting trend: Difference in percentage of five-, four- and three-star recruits in current class vs. expectation.

Revenue growth: Difference between revenue earned in 2016 season relative to 2012-2015 average. Data derived from U.S. Department of Education Equity in Athletics Database.

Twitter buzz: Percentage of tweets from fans that are positive based on social media sentiment analysis.

Run Nebraska through that series of statistical tests and the FHI spits out a national ranking of 87th. That puts the Huskers 10th in the Big Ten and in the “Disappointed” category:

Nebraska’s recent downturn is bumming out Cornhuskers fans, but at least a strong recruiting class gives them hope.

The Huskers do indeed score highly in the recruiting category. Revenue growth and program power are pretty solid as well, but rivalry dominance (no shocker there) and coaching stability are dragging the score down. (Personally, I think Nebraska’s coaching situation is more stable than it’s being given credit for here.) Also, if everyone could start tweeting nice things about Nebraska it might boost the Huskers a couple of spots in next year’s rankings.

Nebraska was the last Big Ten school to make the cut for the All-Disappointed team. Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State fans are all “distraught.” Ohio State fans, who top the national list, are “elated” alongside Northwestern, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan fans. Maryland, Iowa, Indiana and Rutgers fans are all deemed “skeptical.”

The Huskers will face the full range of emotions in 2017. Three of the opponents Nebraska faces this season are skeptical, one is content (Oregon, bizarrely), one is disappointed, three are distraught and four are elated. Keep a close eye on things once the calendar flips to October. Starting with Wisconsin on Oct. 7, Nebraska must face elated fan bases in four of six games.

Also, cheer up everyone. Football is almost here.

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