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The Others

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The Pitt Panthers are off, as expected, to another strong start to their 2010-11 college basketball season. No shock there as that has become the norm under Jamie Dixon.

His team was rewarded with a preseason top five national ranking.

However, despite what almost surely promises to be an outstanding season--one potentially destined for a Final Four appearance--there is one national source that suggests the Panthers are only just “other.”


This is not a riddle out of Batman. Rather, it's an assessment of where the Pitt hoops' brand stands relative to other notable national programs.

Turnkey is a nationally recognized company that focuses on what it calls “business performance,” something it seeks to improve through “busines intelligence.” One feature Turnkey has is a monthly sports poll in which 10 to 15 questions are submitted to about 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives in the collegiate and professional ranks.

One of the questions sent to this group asked which men's college basketball program has the strongest brand. You don't have to be a senior-level sports industry executive to know who tops that list. Close your eyes, listen to your brain and set aside emotion: 64 percent of the respondents chose Duke.

Hate on Duke all you want, but the answer to that quiz shouldn't surprise you.

What follows, however, may.

For all its on-court success, rising national esteem and regular national television appearances, the Panthers are nowhere to be found on this list. Not that it's a cheap one, either, mind you. Consider North Carolina was second with 19 percent of the electorate--that would be 45 percent behind their up-the-road neighbors--and you can see where this is headed.

The next level was made up by the likes of Kentucky, UCLA, Michigan State and Kansas--sounds like a pretty fair Final Four to me--as well as Arizona and Pitt Big East foes Syracuse and Connecticut.

It's not like the latter two, or Arizona and Kansas for that matter, hit it out of the park, garnering 1 percent of the balloting. And, to be fair, the Spartans, Bruins and Wildcats ranged from three to five percent.

But, here's the problem: there's only one more category - “other.”

Interesting stuff. Pitt basketball is anything but "other," but it's brand, at least according to this data, is just that. As long as Pitt is winning games, is ranked highly, appears on national TV and selling it's  merchandise, there's reason to be happy.

But being satisfied may require more work, even if it means just not being “other.”

The Ellis Cannon Sports Business Reports, aired daily on KQV Radio 1410 and at pittsburghsportsreport.com, feature reports and analysis such as this. The Reports are aired at 9:12 a.m. and 6:12 p.m., KQV, and 24/7 and globally at PSR's web site.

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