ACC vs. Big 12 Fan Travel Costs By the Numbers

In light of Bud's excellent discussion about fan travel yesterday, I wanted to add some numbers to the discussion. Some points to be discussed/challenged/investigated/confirmed/refuted are:

A) If FSU moved to the Big 12, it would be more expensive for the average fan (non-student) to travel to away games

2) It would be more expensive/difficult for students to travel to away games

D) The most expensive destinations would likely not be in FSU's division, so fans would only have to travel there for away games about twice in a decade

Lubbock) The most ideal situation for anyone depends on where they live and how much money they have

Manhattan) The hypothetical future Big 12 should include [insert ACC/Big East team(s) here] so fans can travel to closer/cheaper away games

In yesterday's article, Bud argued that most fans who go to away games are already flying, so I decided to compare the costs of flying to ACC destinations with the costs of flying to the current Big 12 destinations. To do this, I used (a flight search site that gives results from nearly every airline, the most notable exception being Southwest) using the following criteria:

Departure airports: Tallahassee (TLH), Jacksonville (JAX), Tampa (TPA), Orlando (MCO), Miami/Ft. Lauderdale (MIA, FLL, or PBI), and Atlanta (ATL).

ACC Destinations: Boston College (BOS or PVD), Clemson (GSP or AVL), Duke (RDU), Georgia Tech (ATL), Maryland (DCA, IAD, or BWI), Miami (MIA, FLL, or PBI), North Carolina (RDU), NC State (RDU), Virginia (CHO, LYH, or RIC), Virginia Tech (LYH or ROA), and Wake Forest (GSO).

Big 12 Destinations: Baylor (ACT), Iowa State (DSM), Kansas (MCI), Kansas State (MCI or MHK), Oklahoma (OKC), Oklahoma State (OKC or TUL), Texas (AUS or SAT), TCU (DFW), Texas Tech (LBB), and West Virginia (PIT).

Note: If multiple airports are listed, I used whichever one produced a cheaper ticket price. I only considered airports within a two hour drive of the university. Also, in the cases of Miami and Atlanta the hometown games were given values of $0 since no travel would be involved. Atlanta-Clemson was also given a value of $0 since nobody in their right mind would fly that route and I'm not incorporating other travels costs (driving, hotels, etc.) into this analysis.

The dates used for the search were October 5-7, 2012, a randomly selected Friday-Sunday weekend in the fall. Ideally, it would be better to search multiple weekends and average them, but that would take a lot more time.

Results (click images to see larger versions)



And for those of you who, like me, enjoy numbers/spreadsheets/matlab/fortran/etc., here are the same results in text form:



Also of interest are the flight costs to Louisville, since they are being included in much of the realignment discussion. Here are the costs to fly to Louisville (SDF or LEX) from each city:

  • Tallahassee: $410
  • Jacksonville: $355
  • Tampa: $267
  • Orlando: $226
  • MIA/FLL: $353
  • Atlanta: $188

Clearly, flights from the areas where many FSU fans live to Big 12 country are significantly more expensive than flights to ACC destinations. Obviously, these results should be taken with a grain of salt since they're from a very small sample size of flight search results, but the trends in Big 12 vs. ACC are still significant. However, they do not tell the whole story. As Bud said in his article, many of these destinations would only be visited about twice every decade due to the structure of conference divisions. Therefore, more weight should be given to teams in the same division as FSU.

Analysis Part I: The total cost of attending every conference away game

As things currently stand in the ACC, FSU's divisional opponents are BC, Clemson, Maryland, NC State, and Wake Forest, so FSU travels to each of those universities five times in a given 10-year period. Miami is also included in this group because of the continuous yearly rivalry. UF will not be considered as this analysis is only including conference foes and UF is within driving distance of the majority of FSU fans in the southeast anyway. This leaves five Coastal Division opponents that FSU would travel to twice in a decade. If some lucky FSU fan were to have enough money and free time to travel to every intra-conference road game over the course of a decade, their average yearly flight costs (from each different departure city) would be:

  • Tallahassee: $1361.40/year
  • Jacksonville: $1183.50/year
  • Tampa: $1004.80/year
  • Orlando: $888.90/year
  • MIA/FLL: $818.70/year
  • Atlanta: $812.4/year

To compare these prices to the Big 12, I'm going to use 3 different situations: a 12-team, 14-team, and 16-team league. I'll use Miami as the other addition to the 12-team league, add in Georgia Tech and Clemson in the 14-team league, and Louisville and Virginia Tech in the 16-team league. These lineups are all speculation, of course, and only for the sake of research/argument.

12-team Big 12

The divisional alignment in this case is hard to predict. Would they want FSU, Miami, and WVU in the same division for geography's sake? If so, which three other teams would join them? Or maybe they'd want FSU and Miami to be split up so the rest of the schools get to play in Florida at least once every two years? This is the situation I'll use.

Division 1: FSU, Texas, Oklahoma State, WVU, Kansas, Baylor

Division 2: Miami, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas Tech, TCU, Iowa State

Although the Big 12 currently has nine conference games, I believe they would go back to having eight conference games and a conference championship if they had 12 members. If the Big 12 in this scenario has the same setup where every team has a cross-divisional rival that they play every year, FSU would of course continue to play Miami. The average yearly costs for traveling to each conference away game over the course of a decade would be:

  • Tallahassee: $1657.60/year
  • Jacksonville: $1467.40/year
  • Tampa: $1297.60/year
  • Orlando: $1286.40/year
  • MIA/FLL: $1126.90/year
  • Atlanta: $1253.80/year

These results are on the order of $300-$400/year more expensive than the ACC totals, with the highest increases being out of Orlando and Atlanta.

14-team Big 12

With 14 teams, a cross-divisional yearly rival is less likely to happen, so I'm going to put FSU and Miami in the same division now so they can play every year. A geographic division is still awkward here, but let's do it anyway.

Division 1 (East): FSU, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech, WVU, Iowa State, TCU (Kansas is technically the easternmost of the remaining schools after Iowa State but TCU makes more sense here since it's new to the Big 12 and Kansas would want to preserve its rivalry with Kansas State)

Division 2 (West): Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State

With six divisional foes to play every year, the Big 12 would face a choice: eight conference games or nine. I believe they would remain at eight, as that is what the SEC will be doing when it starts its 14-team league this coming fall. So that means each non-divisional matchup would be played twice every six years, one of those being an away game. That means the full cycle will happen every 12 years instead of 10. The average yearly cost of this setup over that 12-year period would be:

  • Tallahassee: $1605.50/year
  • Jacksonville: $1414.17/year
  • Tampa: $1318.83/year
  • Orlando: $1223.17/year
  • MIA/FLL: $1111.67/year
  • Atlanta: $956.83/year

Surprisingly, these numbers aren't significantly cheaper than the 12-team setup, with the exception of those who live in Atlanta (who have no flight costs to Clemson or Georgia Tech).

16-team Big 12

Here is where the divisional alignment speculation gets especially dicey. If using the traditional two-division lineup, you'd likely have to have nine conference games a year, and that would screw up my analysis. Instead, I'm going to go with the "pods" model. In this model, there are four pods of four teams each and each team has two cross-pod rivals (who themselves must be from different pods). Let's use this pod setup:

Pod A: FSU, Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson

Pod B: Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor

Pod C: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State

Pod D: Iowa State, WVU, Louisville, Virginia Tech

For the sake of argument, let's say FSU's first cross-pod rival is WVU and their second cross-pod rival is Baylor.

For two years, pods A and B would form a division, with pods C and D forming the other division. FSU would play all of the teams in pods A and B plus WVU, their first cross-pod rival. For the next two years, pods A and C would form a division and pods B and D would form the other division, so FSU would play all teams in pods A and C plus WVU. In the next two years, pods A and D would form a division, and pods B and C would form a division, so FSU would play all teams in pods A and D plus Baylor, their secondary cross-pod rival, since they would've already had to play WVU per the divisional setup.

This setup has a complete cycle every 6 years. Over those 6 years, FSU would play the other teams in pod A 6 times (3 on the road), WVU 6 times (3 on the road), Baylor 4 times (2 on the road), and the rest of the teams twice (1 on the road). Thus, the average yearly travel costs over that 6-year period for an FSU fan would be:

  • Tallahassee: $1578.00/year
  • Jacksonville: $1349.50/year
  • Tampa: $1246.33/year
  • Orlando: $1165.67/year
  • MIA/FLL: $1074.33/year
  • Atlanta: $889.33/year

The decrease in these numbers is more significant than the decrease from the 12-team model to the 14-team model. However, they're still much higher (~ $200 on average) than the yearly costs for attending ACC away games.

Overall, the results in this section are all heavily dependent on divisional lineups since they determine how often you have to travel to a given school. If you have a specific scenario in mind, let me know what it is in the comments and I'll calculate the results for you.

Analysis Part II: The average (non-student) fan

If you're like the majority of FSU fans, going to every single conference away game is not an option, so the numbers in the previous section do not apply to you. In this section I'm going to consider the case of a fan who currently likes to take two trips to FSU road games a year: one by car and one by plane.

Most of us who live in Florida are only likely to drive to three conference away games: Miami, Georgia Tech, and Clemson (and Clemson is a stretch for a lot of us, especially those who live in Miami like me!). Those who live in Atlanta would probably drive to Clemson or the North Carolina schools. That leaves Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Boston College as schools that the average fan would definitely fly to for an away game. How would fans decide which game to go to? That would of course depend on a number of factors, including schedule, ticket cost, cost of accomodations, family nearby, etc. Let's say for the sake of argument that a fan decides to go to the Virginia Tech game, since it's the most expensive option out of the prices that I found.

Let's now consider a 12-team Big 12. Among the current Big 12 schools, none of them are within reasonable driving distance of any of the cities in Florida or Georgia that I'm considering. If Miami were brought into the Big 12 with FSU, that would be the obvious game to drive to, but it would only be an away game every other year. During years in which Miami is a home game, in order to go to two conference away games this same fan would need to fly to both. The cheapest options would depend on the fan's location, but overall the cheapest Big 12 destinations are Pittsburgh (WVU), Austin (Texas), Dallas-Fort Worth (TCU), and Kansas City (Kansas and Kansas State). The only one of these that is, on average, cheaper than flying to Virginia Tech is WVU; the other three are about the same. So the fan would face a dilemma in years in which the U came to Tallahassee: only attend one game or pay twice as much in flight costs to see two games?

With the 14-team and 16-team Big 12 models, there would always be an away game within driving distance (unless the fan lives in Miami), so the difference between the Big 12 and the ACC would not be huge. Perhaps the fan would have to shell out around $100 more for the plane ticket for the game he chose to fly to, but that would depend on way too many factors to discuss here.

Analysis Part III: Students

Personally, I did not attend many away games while I was at FSU, but I knew many people who did. Many students take road trips to every game they can (including Tobacco Road schools), riding together so they can take turns driving and save money on gas. Some students fly to away games as well, but the previous section applies to those students, with the added detail that Tallahassee is by far the most expensive departure airport out of the cities considered so it's already expensive to fly to ACC games. In this section I will only discuss the ramifications for those students who drive to games.

From our current ACC schedule, in a given year FSU will play either Wake Forest and Clemson on the road or NC State and Miami on the road, all four of which are reasonable for students to drive to in a group. So in a given year we would expect a football-crazy student to attend two road games, with more hard-core students attending more.

12-team Big 12: Aside from Miami (or whichever other team would leave along with FSU), no other schools in this hypothetical Big 12 are within reasonable driving distance from Tallahassee. The closest is Texas, at 14 hours. Some hard-core students would make the trip, I'm sure, but the average student would not. The students who previously drove to two ACC road games a year would now only make a trip to Miami once every other year. The result would be much lower student support at road games. Some of them might fly to a game every year instead, but the overall student support at these games would still be lower.

14-team and 16-team Big 12: Driving times would be more reasonable to the closest away games, but students would still not be able to go to as many away games overall without flying to some.


  • For those FSU fans who are able to travel to as many away games as they'd like, the increase in flight costs would be significant if FSU moved to the Big 12. However, the more ACC teams there are in the new Big 12, the less of an increase these fans will see in flight costs. Louisville would also be a cost-beneficial addition as flights to Louisville are not as expensive as those to most Big 12 destinations.
  • The average fan who likes to go to two away games a year (one by road, one by air) would be negatively affected by increases in flight costs in years in which UM came to Tallahassee, possibly forcing them to only attend one game. This is less of a concern if the Big 12 expands to 14 or 16 teams.
  • Students would be most affected by the conference switch, as they would be forced to fly to most away games they would want to go to, rather than being able to drive and share costs among groups.
  • Additions of Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Louisville to the Big 12 would all aid in helping travel costs stay low(er). Virginia Tech would not.

Note: I'm in no way trying to endorse the move to the Big 12 one way or another. This topic has been mentioned many times so I just wanted to analyze it using actual numbers to see what the results would be.

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