This study was created to compare the success of number hurtmajor college sports with the quality and quantity of student applicants and the fluctuations in alumni donations. Here we will use football as the best modern example of a major college sport. College football teams play twelve games during a regular season, and thirteen if they are invited to a post-season bowl. A winning or successful season will be defined as winning at least ten games during a regular season.
This study specifically seeks to find:
A theory common in society is that success for a major college sports team means success for the college in other areas.
This theory is referred to as the Flutie Effect. The Flutie Effect is the idea that college applications increase after a collegiate sports team has a winning season.
The term got its name from a football game played in 1984 between the University of Miami and Boston College. Doug Flutie, the quarterback for Boston College made a last-minute Hail Mary pass that won the game. The win not only qualified Boston College to compete in the Cotton Bowl, but it also happened to be on TV the day after Thanksgiving. This game gave Boston College a lot of free advertising and exposure to a significantly larger audience.
As a result, Boston College experienced a 30% increase in applications over the next two years (Chung, 2013, p. 679). The theory continues into alumni donations. The same idea is applied here, the more positive media attention a college sports team receives, the more alumni will be inspired to donate to their alma mater. Winning also increases the chances a team will be invited to participate in a televised football bowl. Seeing their college team featured in sports news or being able to watch them on tv may stir this inspiration of giving in alumni. The Athletic Department of College X believes the Flutie Effect theory to be true. They have asked for addition additional funding to help make their sports teams more successful. They believe that increasing their budget will lead to greater media exposure for College X. Ideally this will attract a higher caliber and increased number of student applicants and greater alumni contributions to the college.
The results of this study show a significant impact on the number of student applicants following a successful football season. However, an increase in quantity does not mean an increase in quality. The results further show a weak correlation between a winning football season and an increase in alumni donations. The findings of this research are presented in the following categories: (a) quantity of student applicants, (b) quality of student applicants, (c) alumni donations, and (d) other opportunity costs. Quantity of Student Applicants It has been well documented that a successful collegiate football season generates increased student applications in the following academic year. As mentioned in the Background section of this report, this phenomenon was first recognized in 1984 as the Flutie Effect. Increase of Applicants Boston College isn’t the only college to experience a notable increase after a winning season. Boise State University saw an 18% increase in applications after a successful season in 2006-2007 (Chung, 2013, p. 679). Northwestern University saw a similar increase (21 %) after a victorious football season in 1996 (Chung, 2013, p. 679). Perhaps the most impressive of the modern examples are Texas Christian University which enjoyed a 105% increase in applications after consecutive winning seasons from 2000-to 2008 (Chung, 2013, p. 680). Projections Success of major college football teams can be linked to an increase in applications. Based on the available information, the correlation exists between these factors is significant. The total number of student applicants can be expected to increase by an average of 18.7% (Silverthorne, 2013) if the football team at College X can complete its football season with a winning record. However, this increase would only apply if College X’s current and previous records contained less than ten wins.
The ten wins must be an improvement for this projection to be accurate. Quality of Student Applicants The success of major college athletic sports will have an increase in the number of student applicants but may not have the same effect on the quality of applicants. When universities have winning seasons, most of the surge in applicants comes from poorer-performing students. The increase of applicants on average is three times as many for students with low SAT scores than those with high SAT scores (Chung, 2013, p. 693). Showing that a successful sports team is more influential with lower-performing students. Although, colleges can be more selective when they have a bigger pool to choose from. In a way, that could lead to having a better overall quality of academic students. However, an overwhelming majority of fresh applicants would be lower-performing students. Taking that into consideration, the theory of attracting higher-caliber students in this manner is not plausible. Increasing Quality and Quantity Doug J. Chung, a professor at Harvard Business School, in his study on The Dynamic Advertising Effect of Collegiate Athletics, found the same increase in applicants generated by a successful football season could be attained using other measures. According to Chung “…the same effect could be produced hiring higher-quality faculty, with an average increase of 5.1 % to the faculty’s salary budget. Also, lowing tuition costs by 3.8% would cause the same influx.” (Chung, 2013, p. 681) Either of these two options, particularly hiring higher caliber faculty is more likely to attract a higher quality of student applicants. Opportunity Cost The athletic department is an essential part of College X’s organization. However, it is important to consider what may be given up by utilizing a substantial portion of the financial budget for a single department. Other departments that contribute to student success would suffer by reallocating their funding. In their study “The Impact of Intercollegiate Athletics on Graduation Rates Among Major NCAA Division I Universities” Mangold, Bean, and Adams noted “Our results suggest that, contrary to our expectations, successful sports programs may have a negative impact on unhurt graduation rates.” (Mangold, et al., 2003, p. 554).
What good is attracting more students when the school cannot support them? The link between an increase in funding for major college sports and a decrease in graduation rates is becoming more prevalent. Lower graduation rates would hurt the academic standing of a university. Goodwill within the community and the college’s reputation would also be diminished. Some other implications could include, loss of faculty, lower student applications in the long term, and loss of funding for public universities. Projections While the quantity of applicants is sure to increase following a winning football season, the quality will not. Increasing the budget of the athletic department will likely not attract the dedicated and higher caliber students College X is looking for. There is evidence that it might cause the opposite of the desired effect. Alumni Donations In “Alumni Donations and Colleges’ Development Expenditures: Does Spending Matter?”, Harrison, Mitchell, and Peterson noted there was some correlation between fond memories of a college and alumni donations (Harrison et al., 1995, p. 399). This idea could apply if the college had a winning athletic team during the time the alumni attended the college. However, they found little evidence that the alumni college’s current sports team performance enticed additional donations. A possible reason could be that it is well known that football bowl participants are awarded a cash prize (Chung, 2013, p. 681). When a person knows an organization has just received outside funding, they are less likely to give. Seeing the institution as successful also diminishes the drive to contribute. Further research found that different genders donate to their alma mater for different reasons.
Most Frequent Donors After studying 31 years of donation records for a college on the east coast, Dvorak and Taubman found that women give more frequently and reliably than men (2013, p. 129). Women tend to give because of the “empathic joy” or “warm glow” they get from contributing to charitable causes (Mesch et al., 2011, p. 343). When overall donations are observed based on gender, Mesch et al. found that “men gave approximately 12 percent less on average than women” (Mesch et al., 2011, p. 351). Based on this research a conclusion can be made about the reasons women donate. It stems from their beliefs and moral code. A winning football season is not likely to inspire giving from this community of alumni. Most Generous Alumni According to this research, men generally give larger gifts than a wome woman (Dvorak & Toubman, 2013, p. 126). However, they are less consistent in making donations and less likely to give repeatedly than women. They are also only likely to donate when there is recognition tied to their giving. Male donors are more likely to give when the colleges hold special drives that repay alumni with admission to special social groups or clubs. A distinct honor like becoming a trustee for the college is a more effective way to encourage donations from male alumni. Other known ways to inspire contributions include: being able to give a speech at a college event, naming a building after the donor, or being admitted to an exclusive group like the “President’s Club” (Dvorak & Toubman, 2013, p.121). Something like a successful football season alone is unlikely to spur donations from this group of donors. Projections A winning football season will undoubtedly remind alumni of their college years due to increased media coverage. Reminiscing about positive experiences in college may encourage some alumni to donate.
However, this does not satisfy the reasons why the most frequent and the most generous donors contribute. In addition, common knowledge about amounts won in football bowls may cause alumni to believe donations are not needed. The amounts received will not be enough to justify a substantial increase being requested by the athletic department. Another Opportunity Costs Ultimately, increasing the athletic budget is going to mean pulling funds from another department. Even when more money is put into an athletic department, most of it goes toward major sports like football and basketball. Often these teams spend more money than they make, causing a deficit of millions of dollars (Vegosen, 2007). According to an estimation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) more than 550 college varsity tennis teams were cut in 2007 (Vegosen, 2007). Jon Vegosen of the ITA also commented “Sports like wrestling, track, swimming, diving, crew, and fencing have been similarly eroded.” (Vegosen, 2007). These cuts are often justified by claims that other sports like football bring in money. As this research has shown, football does bring in money, but not nearly as much as those types of programs spend. This is a problem because these college sports teams frequently produce athletes that go on to participate in the Olympics. The schools the Olympic athletes are from are often announced and advertised as well. Focusing on major college sports teams cripples the university’s media exposure through this source.
Analysis of relationships between success in major college sports and the quality and quantity of student applicants shows mixed results. Applying research to a connection between alumni donations and success in major college sports proved to be weak.
The following conclusions can be made about the effects of increased funding for the athletic department and a winning major college sports team:
They are known to give so that they can receive. Unfortunately, a winning season of their college sports team does not fulfill the main motivators for alumni giving for either group. number that College X numberhurt the athletic department’s request for significant financial supportssupportnumber. Based on the findings presented, increased funding may produce a more successful team. A successful team would increase the quantity of applicants, but not the quality. A winning team also would not inspire increased alumni donations as suggested.