Minutes after Florida State won the BCS Football National Championship last night, a friend’s Facebook status read: “The neighborhood is burning. Hipsters are throwing things. Please send help.”
There’s no question successful college athletic programs electrify their towns and students alike. But do these programs mean much for the pool of prospective students who seek and accept admission?
According to two researchers, yes — and in a good way for the college’s academic standing.
Jaren and Devin Pope analyzed application and SAT score data from the 330 universities falling under Division 1 NCAA Sports between 1983 and 2002. They found that a championship season in football or basketball results in a 7 to 8% increase in the number of applications received for the following year. For football, making the Top 10 boosts applications by 3%, and for basketball, making the Final Four boosts applications by 4 to 5%.
In stride, rates of acceptance decrease following the influx of more applicants, permitting admissions officers to increase the quality of their admitted students.
Take the University of Florida, for example. Following the Gators’ 2008 BCS championship win, applications for the freshman class of 2009 increased by 6% over the prior year. The rate of admissions dropped from 41% to 37% this year, with the average low-end freshman GPAs increasing substantially from prior years.
In the numbers game of college admissions and strained school budgets, these figures mean something. According to Kyle Judah in an analysis of the Pope data, the chain goes something like this: more championship games played, more college ads featured on national television. More interest in the school by out-of-state students, more applications. Fees accompanying applications are substantially increased, and out-of-state students ultimately pay more to attend the university.
“Shockingly it is sports, the traditionally fiscal black hole, than can be one of the greatest assets to schools seeking to overcome their crippled budgets,” writes Judah. “…We cannot deny the evidence – a successful sports program can change the admissions and recruiting game, creating a boon of new prospects for admissions counselors.”