Chains, Thrones, and Even a Chainsaw: College Football’s Sideline Gimmicks Ranked by Over 2,000 Fans

Last season, Miami gave us the Turnover Chain – a gaudy, jewel-encrusted Miami “U” symbol hanging at the end of thick, gold links. This fine piece of jewelry, worn by defensive players after picking off a pass or recovering a fumble, became a sensation in the college football world in 2017. While Miami was not the first to award gimmicks to players for big plays (Alabama has been awarding their “Ball Out Belt” since the earlier part of this decade), theirs was the first to become a cultural phenomenon.

Since then, other teams have followed suit, debuting a variety of their own sideline gimmicks. Indeed, it seems like every other week a new, more ridiculous gimmick pops up in the college football world. In 2018, so far we’ve seen a robe, throne, crown, Mardi Gras beads, more belts than you could find on an episode of WWE Monday Night Raw, and more. With so many gimmicks out there, it left me wondering which were appreciated most by college football fans.

This is a textbook research question to answer with a MaxDiff study. I’ve already said this in some of my previous research posts, but MaxDiff is particularly suited for ranking a list of picture-based items. When people are asked to rank 15 – 20 images, it quickly becomes apparent just how difficult and time-consuming that task can be. It is much easier for the average person to look at two pictures and choose the one they like more.

In this research, I used a MaxDiff exercise in which each respondent viewed 20 pairs of turnover gimmicks. In each set, they chose the cooler of the two gimmicks. Because they rated 20 pairs, I could later compute their rankings using fancy math. Compared to a traditional ranking exercise, this method breaks down the ranking task, making it easier, simpler, and not to mention more fun. Because respondents are more engaged, they give quality answers that more accurately reflect how they really feel. All of this is to say that MaxDiff is the best method for tackling this particular research question.

I was fortunate enough to receive participation from 2,407 college football fans across the United States. These are largely knowledgeable, engaged college football fans. Slightly under 9 out of 10 (87%) indicated they closely followed college football (4-5 on a 5-point scale). In addition to self-reporting their knowledge about college football, they displayed it in the MaxDiff exercise by making logical, thoughtful decisions. In short, they knew enough to give meaningful opinions about the topic of study. I mentioned in my post for this season’s first MaxDiff Poll why I would put this sample up against any other fan poll on the Internet in terms of quality, so I won’t rehash that again here.

Now Let’s Get to the Results

Interpreting the Scores: The MaxDiff scores for each gimmick are indexed so that the average is 100. For example, Georgia’s “Savage Pads” received a MaxDiff score of 109, which means they were ranked 9% higher than the average item in this exercise. It is important to note that these scores should not be interpreted as “votes.” See our explanation of MaxDiff if you would like more information.

 

Displayed below some of the images used to conduct this research with commentary.

#19 Florida State’s “Turnover Backpack”


This relatively new one was a particular target of derision in the media. This research participant summed it up pretty succinctly.

“It’s not even a cool looking backpack. Looks like a giant purse.”

 


#18 Tennessee’s “Turnover Trashcan”

Like former Vols coach Butch Jones, the “Turnover Trashcan” was not carried over into the 2018 season, but it was one of the more prominent gimmicks last year. Unfortunately for the 2017 Volunteers, their gimmick reflected too closely to where their season ended up.

Tennessee Trash Can
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

 


#17 UTSA’s “Turnover Bucket”

This one is obviously similar to Tennessee’s trashcan, but fans gave it the slight edge. Perhaps it is due to the “It’s all $$$” motto.

 

 


 

#16 Temple’s “#GetTheBall Board”

This is one of the more original gimmicks out there. Temple defenders who #GetTheBall write their names, slogans, and usually their Twitter handles on the #GetTheBall Board for personal notoriety (and Twitter followers). However, it looks like fans would prefer to strut around with some physical hardware.

 


 


 

#15 Colorado State’s “Turnover Belt”

There were quite a few belts on this list. Perhaps fans felt this one stood out least.



 


#14 Ole Miss’ “Nasty Wideouts Belt”

This one isn’t awarded to defenders. Ole Miss awards their “Nasty Wideouts Belt” to each week’s most valuable receiver. It draws inspiration from the New World Order, one of the greatest professional wrestling stables of all time. This isn’t the last pro wrestling reference.

Ole Miss NWO
Joshua McCoy

 


 

#13 Ohio’s “Turnover Belt”

The “big gold belt” is inspired by the old school WCW/WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I meant to put “big gold belt” in quotes because that’s what this particular historic championship belt is called by professional wrestling fans.


Midge Mazur

 


#12 Alabama’s “Ball Out Belt”

Alabama was actually giving out the “Ball Out Belt” long before Miami whipped out the “Turnover Chain.” It is rightfully displayed below on the shoulder of Tide defensive great Minkah Fitzpatrick, a man as familiar as any with the “Ball Out Belt.”


John David Mercer / USA TODAY Sports

 


 

#11 Louisville’s “Touchdown Gloves” and “Turnover Belt”

The connection to Muhammad Ali is cool and calls back to Louisville as the hometown of the greatest boxer of all time.


 


#10 Texas A&M’s Mace (drum major’s baton)

This sideline gimmick was a very short-lived thing last season. Texas A&M whipped it out last season when they were up big on UCLA. Unfortunately for the Aggies, that game ended up becoming one of the most historic meltdowns in recent memory as Texas A&M would eventually lose that game at the hands of a major Bruins comeback.


 


#9 Tulane’s “Turnover Beads”

You have to give them points for being on brand.


Tulane Beads

Tulane Athletics Department via Associated Press Photo


#8 Georgia’s “Savage Pads”

Drawing inspiration from Mad Max and wrestling greats The Road Warriors, (this still isn’t the last pro wrestling reference) the UGA “Savage Pads” crack the top half of this list in the minds of fans.


Joe Robbins / Getty Images

 


 

#7 Memphis’ Ric Flair-inspired “Turnover Robe” 

Like Tulane, I think you have to give credit to the Memphis Tigers for staying on brand and paying homage to their city’s wrestling heritage with their turnover gimmick. Memphis has long been a pro wrestling stronghold. Back in the day, Memphis was home to some of the greatest feuds in the history of professional wrestling. The legendary feud between Jerry “The King” Lawler and Hollywood actor (and comedic genius) Andy Kauffman particularly stands out. With their turnover gimmick, the Memphis Tigers pay homage to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, arguably the greatest showman in the history of professional wrestling, with a “Turnover Robe” inspired by Flair’s signature ring attire.


 


#6 SMU’s “Turnover Crown and Chalice” 

The regal crown. The regal chalice. As you’ll see, fans rated the finer things pretty highly on this list.


 


#5 Miami’s Current “Turnover Chain” (2018 – 19 Season)

Miami’s newest “Turnover Chain” doesn’t quite have the magic of its predecessor, but it still makes the top third of this list.


Al Diaz / Miami Herald

 


#4 Boise State’s “Turnover Throne”

Any Bronco who gets a coveted turnover sits on the “Turnover Throne” as the “King of Chaos.”


 


#3 Kennesaw State’s “Turnover Plank”

Coming from the FCS’ Kennesaw State, the “Turnover Plank” is certainly unique. For those of you born before 1980, the plank is a reference to a character from the cartoon Ed, Edd, n Eddy Plank is a replica of a character on the cartoon, a block of wood that’s treated like a human friend. Like in the cartoon, the “Turnover Plank” is treated like a human member of the team, and is often seen traveling with the team in the appropriate attire. It looks like fans appreciated the reference and Kennesaw State’s lighthearted satire of turnover gimmicks as the “Turnover Plank” was ranked in the top three. That’s pretty impressive for a block of wood.


 


#2 Miami’s OG “Turnover Chain” (2017 – 18 Season)

This may be a shocker (and perhaps a bit controversial) but Miami’s original “Turnover Chain,” was not ranked by fans as the number one gimmick. Nevertheless, this is the original gimmick that started the craze in 2017. How could a piece of jewelry worn by men on the sideline of a violent sport receive so much attention? Because people love good branding. The “Turnover Chain” embodied the essence of Miami. That was the goal of Anthony John Machado, the famous jeweler who crafted it.

“In Miami, what are we famous for? We’re famous for the Cuban chains. But we need to add a little something to it. So we did a big U charm — orange stones, green stones in there to flash it out.”

– Anthony John Machado, craftsman behind the original “Turnover Chain”


Michael Laughlin / Sun Sentinel

 

 


#1 Oregon State’s “Turnover Chainsaw”

Coming in at #1, surpassing even the original “Turnover Chain” is Oregon State. It helps when your gimmick is in keeping with your brand (Tulane, Memphis, Miami), but it also helps when your brand can include something as awesome as a chainsaw.


The “Turnover Chainsaw” was rated as the coolest gimmick on this list despite the fact that it was one of the gimmicks with which respondents were least familiar. It debuted only a few weeks ago, but it was rated #1 because – well, it’s a chainsaw. Sadly, we may not get to see the “Turnover Chainsaw” often despite its widespread appeal.

A few research participants put it best in the comments on the original post of this poll.

“OREGON STATE HAS A TURNOVER CHAINSAW?!?This is the real victim of Oregon States absolute trash abilities as a football team is that no one knows about this.”

“My thoughts exactly. Shut down the poll, there’s a chainsaw (that no one will ever see…)”

 

 


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