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Does “America’s Team” Exist in College Basketball?

When 2015 power forward Craig Victor casually referred to Kentucky as “America’s Team” on Friday night at an NBPA Top 100 camp, I didn’t think much of it. The quote seemed like the type of thing an excited young high schooler might say when talking about the possibility of playing for one of college basketball’s hottest basketball programs at the moment. Although his quote added some context and detail when he further explained with “That’s the dream to play at Kentucky (for all high school players).”

Of course many of our Louisville fan friends (and I use that term loosely) across the state were quick to jump on Kentucky as “America’s Team” being a completely false and moronic idea. While I can probably agree that most fans from other schools, especially rival schools, would not label Kentucky this way… I got to thinking… Does “America’s Team” exist in college basketball? I’m not sure it does. The Dallas Cowboys have been the one professional sports team to really carry the nickname for years now. While I’m not sure the Cowboys recent on-field success has lived up to the history, past success and popularity of some of the teams and players who helped start the notion of “America’s Team,” the fact is that the label still at least loosely exists. Does the concept translate at all though to college basketball?

The key criteria for being “America’s Team”:

– Exposure, exposure, exposure! 

The nickname “America’s Team” for the Dallas Cowboys originated in a 1978 highlight film when the narrator opened with the following introduction:

“They appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars. They are the Dallas Cowboys, ‘America’s Team.'”

In order to be America’s Team, America has to be able to watch you play on a regular basis. The teams that are featured the most on ESPN, CBS, etc. have a major advantage here. Many teams have games that are just shown regionally and in the local market. The national exposure on a weekly basis is what sets some teams apart.

– A large built in fan base

Not only must the rest of the country have exposure to the team, but the team must have a very loyal and large/intense built-in fan base to begin with. The bandwagon fans will always hop on, especially when the team is having a successful season. But the core of the fan base must always be in tact and faithful.

– Popular Players/Good Players

People tend to like guys like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, etc. Why? Because they are good. Those are 3 of the most popular players in the NBA. Sure, some people hate them… but for every person who hates them, at least 1 or 2 more love them because they are just flat out good at what they do. If you have a favorite team, you will always make it a point to catch that game on television. If you are looking for another game to catch later on that day, you are likely to turn to whichever game has the stars and popular players. If you can’t watch your own team, why not watch the best players?

– Popular coaches

Perhaps more so than any other sport, college basketball coaches are often the face and most well-known entity in their program. Due to players graduating or leaving early for the NBA or transferring, the turnover rate for players is fairly high. The coaches tend to last longer in many cases, often times becoming synonymous with the program.

– The “cool” factor

Much of the “cool” factor comes from marketing strategies. Take a team like Oregon football for example. Oregon football has the corner on the market for cool and unique uniforms. Some other teams have started to enter the playing field, but Oregon was doing it before anyone else was doing it.

– A mixture of hate and likability 

Have you ever heard the line “Haters Make Me Famous?” No? Well, you clearly haven’t seen the bedazzled t-shirt that Wal-Mart sells then. Anyway, the only thing that makes you more of a subject of conversation than when people like you is when people hate you. If you can’t be loved, the next best thing as far as being in the news/popular is for people to hate you. Haven’t you ever watched a Duke game or a Louisville game just with the hopes that they might lose?

– An exciting brand/style of play

The more casual fan who does not have a clear-cut or established connection to one team in particular might choose to latch on to a team simply because the style of play is exciting. It has not only worked in college basketball, but in other sports as well. For example, Matthew Mitchell’s “40 minutes of Hell” defense has won over a lot of casual viewers and Kentucky fans who normally didn’t pay particularly close attention to women’s basketball. If you are looking for a team to follow somewhat closely during the season, you probably aren’t going to pick a style of play that isn’t very exciting. How many people are dying to catch a Wisconsin basketball game? As consistent as they are…it’s just not exciting.

– Success

Everyone likes to watch a winner. It’s just more fun when the team who you are cheering for is winning. This may result in fans who are ultimately nothing more than bandwagon fans, but they still latch on to teams who are doing well.

 

Simply based off the criteria listed above, Kentucky actually hits the mark in virtually every category. Exposure, popular/good players, a mixture of hate and likability, and success are all areas in which Kentucky excels. In all honesty though, you could make an argument for Kentucky meeting all of the above criteria. The perception of John Calipari among many across the country, which is often times fueled by the media, might be the one thing that holds Kentucky back in some instances.

I still think in college basketball that it is hard to peg a team as “America’s Team.” Those who are fairly serious college basketball fans tend to be fiercely loyal to one school while almost disregarding all others. Those who are not huge college basketball fans often don’t necessarily tune in or take much of a rooting interest. Some people are more interested in professional sports or college football for most of the year until March Madness.

If there were to be a list of candidates for “America’s Team,” here are a few that might make the cut based on the criteria (the main one being exposure in my mind):

(In no particular order):

Kentucky

North Carolina

Duke

Kansas

The Underdog

I actually think the underdog often becomes “America’s Team.” The entire country never pays more attention to college basketball than during the NCAA tournament. An unexpected team or two always seems to capture the attention and hearts of the country for a week or two (think Butler, Wichita State, Florida Gulf Coast).

So while I’m not necessarily ready to anoint Kentucky basketball as “America’s Team,” I will say that the idea is far from outrageous.

Article written by Ally Tucker

I once successfully requested "The Wobble" to be played 6 times at one wedding.

28 Comments for Does “America’s Team” Exist in College Basketball?



  1. Hartline
    10:03 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Calipari having a LeBron type noteriety nullifies this argument.



  2. Oops
    10:09 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Victor is 2014



  3. SuperTroy
    10:09 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Duke canNOT be America’s team. I doubt any private law school would personify America’s team. It’d have to be a state team. UK, UNC and maybe even KU, (although their checkered past could nullify that, along with UNC’s checkered present.)



  4. Reality
    10:11 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    No.



  5. DrSayre
    10:11 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    I think it’s Duke…the only reason I say that is that I hate the Cowboys and there America’s team



  6. AThom
    10:12 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Gotta say the underdog would definitely be “America’s Team.” All those schools are great programs (especially Kentucky..) but when it comes down to it in march its always the underdog that America falls for.



  7. Bryan8696
    10:12 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    steal topics from 790 much?? funny they had this EXACT topic on 790 yesterday



  8. jbk
    10:20 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Hahahahahahahaha. They actually sent in the pictures. Hilarious. And the “Comments Off” button is more of an insult than possible posted comments are. Ha.



  9. Crack Head
    10:25 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    10) LMAO!! You are so right. Two words, meth lab.



  10. Not Really
    10:37 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Nice tats!



  11. Django
    10:42 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    9) Focus on your own insecurities. Leave them be man, cmon.



  12. jonathan
    10:42 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    10, what possesses someone to do that? to make fun of someone they don’t even know, have never even met? and why? just for a cheap laugh? knowing that what you write is offensive and, in this case, untrue. people like you, though by no means a small contingent, are the absolute worst. what a pitiful existence you must lead.



  13. Philuk18
    10:47 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    There is no “America’s team” in any sport. Any team successful enough to fit the bill will also be polarizing enough to have lots of haters in addition to their fans.



  14. backdoorSlider.com
    10:58 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    So why is Matt afraid of Bethany? The only question I have is how is Jeff and Bethany not UofL fans???? They have everything but he Crown Royal. For the love of God there is a neck tattoo!



  15. David
    11:00 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    The Green Bay Packers were called America’s Team in the early 1960s.



  16. Mc
    11:03 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    I’d go with American University.



  17. 'merica
    11:04 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Only national teams are my teams.



  18. bosshogg24
    11:20 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    UK has been America’s Team for years, some people are just waking up to the fact!



  19. Dubbya
    11:28 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Murica!



  20. Post Before
    6:39 am June 20, 2013 Permalink

    The dude with the neck tat and his wife are what the rest of America thinks of when they hear BBN. $20 says he has an Obama phone.



  21. Unboltedharp
    6:42 am June 20, 2013 Permalink

    Dallas is America’s team? Who voted? Certainly not me and no one I know. I got sick of seeing them on tv every week. There were a lot of other NFL teams, better teams, that never got on tv thanks to some network yahoo. The Braves tried this same stupidity and it did not work for them either. Kentucky will always be my team, but they are not America’s team either. No single team could be America’s team, too many fractions. The best definition to me would be the Olympic team.



  22. NotSatire
    6:50 am June 20, 2013 Permalink

    I think you missed an importantant criterion. America’s Team has to have become popular enough to leap over normal geographical boundaries and gain fandom in all regions of the country, sort of like the Cincinnati Reds Big Red Machine, or the Packers or the Cowboys. UK may not be America’s Team quite yet, but it might be among High School b-ballers.



  23. BlueDeuce
    8:05 am June 20, 2013 Permalink

    Kentucky is not America’s team…Kentucky is more like the one of the most hated program around and even more so the last few years (due to success in my opinion).

    Live outside the state of Kentucky (I live in Texas) and you’ll hear more hate about schools like UK, UNC and Duke than you’ll ever hear love for. College sports is a regional thing and I doubt there is a “America’s team” other than as others have noted, the underdog.



  24. dshwildcats
    8:54 am June 20, 2013 Permalink

    I have to agree with Blue Deuce on this subject. College sports is a very regional thing. If Kentucky is playing on ESPN or CBS, I’d say 95% of the fans watching, that are not UK fans or fans of the opposing team, would be cheering against Kentucky.

    To me, the only candidate for an “America’s team” at the college level would be Notre Dame. You will find Irish fans all over the country. The same may be said for the Yankees at the professional level. Of course, both probably have as many detractors as they have fans.



  25. Yeap
    9:22 am June 20, 2013 Permalink

    Yeap 8 they steal topics all the time…….. i listened to this battle the other night on 840………



  26. Steve
    1:12 pm June 20, 2013 Permalink

    maybe not today, because of mass media, but in the 50s, 60s,70s and part of the 80s, Kentucky was a
    America s team because of the radio 84 WHAS blowtorch. Yes, everywhere the Cats went and played they were looked as celebrities. yes, everybody knew who played for the Cats each year.
    84 WHAS was the only station back then with the power reach one half of the USA.
    This situation is sorta like ESPN today. All the top players wanted to go to UK because of the national reconigision the got from radio.
    But I must say, even today,UK may not be Americas team, but tell me who is?? so therefore
    our beloved Cats still are.



  27. Jordan
    1:24 pm June 20, 2013 Permalink

    27) WTF is reconigision