Percentage of NCAA Teams Playing for the National Title in Each Sport

Back in 2014, the NCAA said that the BCS would be no more, and the College Football Playoff was born. College Football moved from two participants to four participants, a 50% jump!

However, with 128 teams in the FBS, that means the percentage of teams making the playoffs is a whopping 3.125%.

Meanwhile, the Men’s Basketball playoff is upon us, which lets in a field of 68 teams across 351 teams, for a percentage of 19%.

What about every other NCAA sport? If you were to play a different sport, what percentage of teams have a shot at the end of the season of playing for the National Title?

Information was gathered about all of the NCAA sports where championships are offered. The focus was on Division I, but some sports have a “combined” championship which spans divisions, like Skiing and Women’s Bowling. Source data was originally collected in January 2013 and updated in March 2015 where new information was available.


For Men’s sports, on average 28% of teams make it in. For Women’s sports, 21% of teams. Men’s, despite the low representation percentage in Football, get a boost from Wrestling, Fencing, and Gymnastics.

Men’s and Women’s basketball have a similar number of competing teams.  In fact, there are only two schools which offer Men’s but not Women’s, The Citadel and VMI.

  • Men’s – 351 Teams, 68 Playoff Spots, 19%
  • Women’s – 349 Teams, 64 Playoff Spots, 18%

Also, take a look at the difference between the Football Bowl Subdivision (1-A) and the Football Championship Division (1-AA).

  • FBS – 128 teams, 4 Playoff Spots, 3%
  • FCS – 126 teams, 24 Playoff Spots, 19%

One could argue that every week during the regular season in the FBS is an “elimination game” on the road to the playoffs, and there are certainly the non-playoff bowl games to consider, but I will leave that debate to the masses.

The other way to “split” this data is to look at it by the type of sport that it is. Some sports are truly team sports, like Football, Basketball, and Soccer.

There are also a few sports which are at its core individual sports, but the structure of the event brings a team element into play and the team as a whole qualifies for the event. Examples include Cross Country, Golf, and Women’s Bowling.

Other sports are based on individual qualification and the “team” component only comes into play if you as an individual have qualified for the Championships. Examples of this include Fencing, Wrestling, Swimming, and Track.  Hence, sports like these might have a higher number of teams representing them, but may only have a single athlete or two from that school that have qualified.


The bar charts give you a percentage, but the following scatter plots should help illustrate the volume of teams participating and making the playoffs.


And here’s that same chart colored by sport type:


So if you want to be playing for a national championship, Men’s FBS Football may not be the best sport to do it in. Have you considered Men’s Gymnastics?

Source information here: NCAATeamsAndPlayoffs_2015.csv

I am also happy to hear comments and corrections on information that I might have missed.

GraphLink: Facebook+NFL

NFL Facebook Fans by County

This winner of this month’s award for “Unexpected Achievement in the World of Graphs” is Sean Taylor of the Facebook Data Science Team. Rather than describe what has been done, I’ll just leave a link here and say it’s Super Bowl related. It’s better explained by Sean anyway.

NFL Facebook Fans by County
My, that's a lot of data.

We here at GraphGraph appreciate a good graph, but what is getting our spreadsheets all in a pivot right now is dreaming of the amount of data that the good folks* at Facebook have at their disposal.

I have one problem with their presentation, and that would be the use of grey as a color. I understand that with 32 teams, there are only so many color options, and I can’t at this moment say how I would have done it differently. Nevertheless, to my eye, grey always looks like it represents “neutral” or “no data available,” not “Patriots or Colts or maybe even Cowboys.” Oh well.

make a gif image

There is a series of maps that shows the support for each remaining team as this year’s postseason progressed. I immediately wished there was an animated version, so I created a gif for your internetting consumption. Enjoy.


I’d like to see this map redone with the map weighted by population, like they do around election time. I also wouldn’t mind seeing this for other sports, like baseball and basketball and curling. Finally, I would be remiss not to mention two things:

1) Sean, Corey, and I all share the same alma mater.
2) Go Ravens.

*I sincerely hope that they are good, given all of the embarrassing pictures they have of young graph enthusiasts.

NFL Championships Per Year

The Green Bay Packers are the winningest NFL franchise. If you watched one minute of Super Bowl coverage last year, you would have been told that. 10 times. But they are also one of the oldest teams in the NFL, founded in 1921. They were winning championships before most of the teams today existed, so their accomplishments aren’t all that great, right? Yes, they won a lot, but at what rate were they winning? How would they stack up against the rest of the league in terms of championships per year? As it turns out, quite well.

Using wikipedia as a source, a table was created listing every current NFL team. Years of eligibility are based on the first year the team is eligible to win the Super Bowl. Before the Super Bowl era, this is based on the first year the team is eligible for the NFL championship. Thus, no AFL championships are included, and NFL championships during 1966-1970 are not included. No AAFC championships are included.* Teams who have never won an NFL championship are listed in order from youngest to oldest. 

As a result, teams such as the New England Patriots and their three titles are ranked higher than the Washington Redskins and their five, due to Washington’s 34 more years of eligibility. Both the fledgling Baltimore Ravens and the long established Oakland Raiders are both winning Super Bowls at a rate of .067 per year. The aforementioned Packers are winning ~.05 more championships a year than the next closest team, their nearby rivals in Chicago.

Terribly useful? Perhaps not. But it is an interesting way to look at and define “success.”
* Let it go, Cleveland. It was a B-league and you know it.

Stanley Cup 2011 Sparklines

I’ll share with you the graph that inspired me to create the site.  I originally published it on my personal blog, but I thought it was worth re-sharing since it started the ball rolling for

“How many minutes has each team led in the Stanley Cup?” wondered fellow GraphGraphian Andrew as we were watching the tail end of Game 5 of the 2011 Stanley Cup.

After Game 6 concluded, Boston tied the series at 3 games a piece.  Using the Sparkline feature in Excel 2010, I looked at the minute-by-minute scores and the results are interesting.  Despite the series being all square at that point at 3-3, Boston dominated minutes lead 164 to 36 (45% to 10%).

After a dominating Game 7, Boston lead 50% of the minutes compared to Vancouver which only lead 9%.

I also took a look back at the last time Vancouver was in a Game 7 final in the Stanley Cup, and that was 1994 when they faced the New York Rangers.

The conclusions that I can draw from seeing this:

  • While in both years the series went to seven games, minutes lead was more evenly distributed in 1994.  In 2011 the games they won, they took the lead late.  Meanwhile the games they lost, the lost the lead early on.
  • A win/loss sparkline setup, along with clear color distinction can give an easy view of the trends across the minutes of a game in a setup that hockey fans can easy understand.