Posted by Jerry Hinnen
College football's popular, but it isn't exploding in popularity these days, sad to say--one look at the most recent round of BCS bowl attendances or television ratings could tell you as much. But according to one recent annual fan poll, it is maintaining its popularity in an age when sports fandom is growing increasingly fractured. And it's maintaining it well enough that's it's now pulled even with no less than the national pastime as the nation's second-favorite sport.
That's according to poll results released this week by Harris Interactive, the same polling information company that manages the Harris Poll used by the BCS. As they've done every year since 1985, Harris asked sports fans to name their favorite sport, and the NFL once again led the way by a huge (and growing) margin; 36 percent of the 2,000 respondents chose pro football No. 1.
But it's the runner-up spot where things get interesting. Thanks to college football getting a slight uptick to 13 percent and Major League Baseball slipping four percentage points from 2011 to the same 13 percent level, the two sports are now tied as the nation's second most popular. Though college football has been within five percentage points of baseball since 2002 -- with college football falling at either 12 or 13 percent every year since 2005 -- this is the first time the two sports have finished dead even.
Unfortunately for baseball, demographics suggest college football could surge into second for good in the coming years. Only 8 percent of respondents aged 50-64 named college football their favorite sport, compared to 21 percent for baseball. College football was particularly popular with "those with a post-graduate degree (22%), college graduates (19%) and Midwesterners (18%)," and less popular with "Easterners (4%) [and] those with a household income of under $35,000 (8%)."
Driven by NASCAR, "auto racing" finished fourth at 8 percent, followed by both pro and college basketball and hockey, all at 5 percent.Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.
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