NCAA Football: Does a Winning Program Offer Institutional Benefits?

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NCAA Football:  Does a Winning Program Offer Institutional Benefits?

Many believe a college or university enjoys significant increased enrollment when that university fields a winning football program. A championship is thought to increase that enrollment even more.

Is it a myth?

Rigorous studies of the subject suggest that there is no significant institutional benefit to athletic success.

Cornell University economist Robert Frank, after reviewing the statistics, concluded any links to football victories and increased applications and the SAT scores of the applicants “is small and not significantly different from zero.”

A 2009 study by Devin G. Pope of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Jaren C. Pope of Virginia Tech finds applications do rise from two to eight percent after successful football season, but “the impact is often short-lived.”

As for donations, while winning records do not necessarily increase gifts, football bowl game appearances do, to the tune of $6.50 per alumnus at public universities and $40 per year per alumnus at private schools.

“The statistical information seems to say that if the overall net effect of athletic success on alumni giving is positive, it is likely to be small,” wrote Frank.

Is there any correlation between spending more on athletics and winning more?

According to a recent NCAA report,

Does increased spending on coaches’ salaries have any significant relationship to success or increased revenue?

According to a follow up study, increased coaches salaries do not have a significant effect on winning or on revenue generation.

So what is the benefit to a winning football program?

Image and bragging rights.

“Your athletic status is wrapped in your image and visibility as an institution" said Joseph Chapman, president of North Dakota State University.

Granted, most students don't enroll at a college or university based on whether or not that school's football team won the conference championship.

Successful football programs do help the overall 'image' of the institution but have little or no impact if the prospective student is going to base his or her selection of an institution on academics.

There is one other area where a winning football program clearly has its advantage.

Bragging rights.

There is nothing better than going home for Christmas break and fully exercising your "bragging rights" especially if friends and family happen to have attended a rival institution.

And those "bragging rights" don't have a time limit.

...that may be the greatest benefit to a winning college football program.

there would appear to no correlation between the two.

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