The early rounds of the college basketball championship are fun to watch, but rarely does Cinderella actually dance with the prince. Only 5 schools have won 16 of the last 25 championships: Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Connecticut, and Florida. This lack of parity has been broken up by Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan State, Maryland, UCLA, Syracuse and UNLV, the last so-called mid-major to win it all.
It's a little bit better in college football, beginning with the 1990 season 16 different schools have won the national title in the past 25 years, although there have been school like Colorado and Georgia Tech who only shared a title instead of being named an outright champion. And then you have Alabama and their 4 titles since 1990. However, a mid-major has not won a championship since 1984, and many now consider that one to be a fluke.
Parity may not seem like it's important to college sports, but it should be. Parity leads to higher attendance, as a higher percentage of fan bases have real hope when the season begins. For an example of what parity can do for sports, look no farther than the National Football League. Even the New Orleans Saints, once the joke of the NFL, have won a Super Bowl. The list of teams to never play in that game is a short one, only the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texas are on that list. In the last 25 seasons, 23 of the NFL's 32 teams have at least played in the big game at least once with 14 different champions. As a result, TV money has never been better. Attendance is down slightly with technology, but most other sports leagues wish they had the NFLs gate problems.
All of the major sports leagues in North America have had good parity in the last 25 seasons with the notable exception of the NBA, which has had more runners up than champions and more teams not to appear in the finals than runners up. This could also be a result of the lack of parity in college basketball.
The most successful college teams, there are probably 10 of these schools, will see most of their quality players enter the NBA draft as underclassmen, many as freshmen. This creates more scholarship opportunities than those schools who see most of their best players complete a full 4 years. You will notice that the top recruits in high school basketball will list these 10 schools as their top choices, and it is rare that they will choose a school other than one of these 10.
There are only 15 scholarships for a college basketball team. In a 4 year period, if Kentucky sees 3 freshmen enter the NBA draft every season, but Wyoming has all of their players play for a full four years, then Kentucky is going to have 9 more players pass through their program over a 4 year period than Wyoming does. The odds are in favor of the schools that get kids to the NBA early.
There is one other anomaly in the NBA: 14 of the league's 30 teams do not qualify for the playoffs. Many of these teams will tank, or lose games intentionally to gain access to the 2 or 3 very talented players in the NBA draft each season. Many players who would be all-stars if they seasoned in college for a full four years will never succeed at the professional level. That is probably the main reason why the NBA has seen only 8 different champions in the last 25 years.
Yes, there have been only 14 NFL champions in the last 25 years, but there are only 32 teams in the league. Almost half of your NFL cities have claimed a recent champion. There are 120 Division 1 FBS programs. About 14 percent of college football programs have recently won a share of the national title. About 4 percent of college basketball programs have a recent champion.
While college sports has a different mission than professional sports, it would still be nice if Eastern Washington a chance to go all the way, instead of hoping for a 2nd round upset or a trip to the sweet 16. I would be nice if Louisiana Tech played in the Sugar Bowl every now and again. If this was possible now-a-days, perhaps there would less need for the NCAA's persnickety recruiting rules.
Parity by US Sports League
National Football League since 1989-90 season.
Number of different Super Bowl Champions: 14
San Francisco 49ers (2), New York Giants (3), Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys (3), Green Bay Packers (2), Denver Broncos (2), Baltimore Ravens (2), St Louis Rams, New England Patriots (4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers (2), Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks
Most Championships since 1989-90 Season: New England Patriots (4)
Other teams to play in the Super Bowl but have not won since the 1989-90 season: 9: (Some of these teams won the Super Bowl or a pre-Super Bowl Championship before 1989)
Buffalo Bills (4), San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans
Teams not to play in the Superbowl since 1989-90 season (Note, many of these teams won championships before 1989): 9
New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans
Major League Baseball since 1990 season, (considering 1994 post-season was canceled).
Number of different World Series champions: 14
Oakland Athletics, Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays (2), Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees (5), Miami (Florida) Marlins (2), Arizona Diamondbacks, Anaheim Angles, Boston Red Sox (4), Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals (2), Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants (2)
Most Championships since 1990: New York Yankees (5)
Other teams to play in the World Series since 1990: 8
Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals
Teams not to appear in World Series since 1990: 7
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angleles Dodgers
National Hockey League since 1989-90 Season (2005 season was canceled)
Number of Different Champions: 14
Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins (3), Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils (3), Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche (2), Detroit Red Wings (4), Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks (2), Los Angeles Kings (2)
Most Championships since 1989-90 season: Detroit Red Wings (5)
Other teams to play in Stanley Cup Finals, but lose since 1989-90 season: 7
Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabers, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals
Teams not to appear in Stanley Cup Finals since 1989-90 season: 9
New York Islanders, Saint Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets II, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, Winnepeg Jets I/Arizona Coyotes
National Basketball Association since 1990-91 season
Number of Different Champions: 8
Chicago Bulls (6), Houston Rockets (2), San Antonio Spurs (5), Los Angeles Lakers (5), Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat (2), Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks
Most Championships since 1990-91 season: Chicago Bulls (6)
Other teams to play in the NBA Finals but lose: 10
Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, New York Nicks, Orlando Magic, Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers
Teams not to appear in NBA finals since 1990-91 season: 12
Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets II, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets I/Pelicans, Toronto Raptors
Major League Soccer since it's beginning (Began in 1996)
Number of Different Champions: 8
DC United (4), Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards/Sporting Kansas City (2), San Jose Earthquakes I/Houston Dynamo (4), Los Angeles Galaxy (5), Columbus Crew, Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids
Most Championships: Los Angeles Galaxy (5)
Other teams to play in the MLS Cup final but lose: 3
New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Dallas Burn/FC Dallas,
Teams not to appear in MLS Cup Finals: 7 (+2)
San Jose Earthquakes II, Montreal Impact, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, Orlando City*, New York City FC*
*Expansion teams in current season.
FBS College Football since 1990 season
Number of Different Champions: 16
Note: Multiple national champions were declared in 1990, 1991, 1997 and 2003
Colorado, Georgia Tech, Miami (2), Washington (2), Alabama (4), Florida State (3), Nebraska (3), Michigan, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio State (2), Louisiana State (2), USC (2), Texas, Florida (3), Auburn (2)
Most championships since 1990 season: Alabama 4
Note: because of BCS and multiple bowls and scenarios, it would be impractical to list all of the teams that had a chance to win a championship going into the bowls. The college football playoff began in 2014 season and Alabama was the runner up.
Number of college teams not to win the national championship since the 1990 season: 104
Division 1 College Basketball since 1989-90 Season
Number of different champions: 14
Kentucky (3), North Carolina (3), Duke (4), Connecticut (4), Kansas, Louisville, Florida (2), Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan State, Maryland, UCLA,Syracuse, UNLV
Most Championships since since 1989-90 season: Duke, Connecticut (4)
Other schools to play in the championship game but lose: 6
Utah, Indiana, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Butler, Memphis
Number of Division I college basketball teams not to appear in the national championship final since the 1989-90 season 331