March Madness And Rutgers Basketball

April 11, 2013, 1:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 4/6/2013) Basketball has been in the news this month – once for the culmination of the college basketball season, with the NCAA’s basketball championships, and once for a new scandal involving the Rutgers University coach’s verbal – and physical – abuse of his players. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll shows overall interest in basketball up from two years ago, and Americans overwhelmingly supporting Rutgers’ decision to fire coach Mike Rice for his behavior. Interest in basketball continues to lag behind interest in football (43% call themselves football fans), but has risen more than interest in any other sport asked about in this poll.

Basketball fans are more likely to be men, more likely to be younger, and more likely to be African-American. But awareness of the Rutgers scandal – which involved video of the fired coach using homophobic epithets and hurling basketballs at the players – has gotten somewhat more widespread attention. More than a third are following those events closely. Attentiveness is higher in the Northeast – Rutgers’ region – and interest is more uniform across race and age groups, with older adults as attentive as younger adults. Coach Rice gets little support from any group.

43% have no opinion on whether his firing was right or wrong, perhaps reflecting the fact that more than a third of the country are not paying any attention to the scandal. But those with an opinion overwhelmingly side with the University’s decision to let him go.