ESPN sports business and legal reporter Kristi Dosh wrote the new book, “Saturday Millionaires: How Winning Football Buildings Winning Colleges.” Dosh is an attorney and alumna of Oglethorpe University; as a member of the board of trustees she served on a committee which considered adding football. She offers statistical and anecdotal context for the new football programs in Georgia.
At Oglethorpe, adding football didn’t make any sense. Football at the Division III level is a huge expense, and it wasn’t the best way for a school like Oglethorpe to increase enrollment or attract higher-quality students.
While competing in football isn’t for every school, many have embraced its place on campus and experienced significant results. Here are nine ways that happens:
Increased applications/enrollment. College applicants have been found to be influenced greatly by a university’s athletic reputation. This is “The Flutie Effect,” named after quarterback Doug Flutie, who was credited with a 30 percent increase in applications at Boston College the year after his Heisman Trophy win. Increased interest can mean more students enrolled, and thus more tuition dollars, or it can allow a school to select better students.
Increased retention/graduation rates. The more a school’s football team wins, the more students stick around and graduate. Some call this “football chicken soup” because it gives students some comfort. Some schools’ big athletic programs are matched by big academic resources, too.
Increased ranking: Academic rankings, especially in U.S. News and World Report, increase with winning football, according to studies. One reason is that the ranking is based on how peers assess your college. Football can make your school more appealing.
Increased donations/state appropriations. Multiple studies have found athletic success bumps up athletic giving and general giving to the university. Simply having a football team produced larger state appropriations for schools, on average 6 percent higher.
Increased licensing/branding. Boise State, for example, went from $210,000 in royalties before the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to more than $1 million last year.
Giving back. The profits of winning football programs help provide non-athletic scholarship funding, new buildings and other upgrades.
Degree completion programs. Former student-athletes can return to their colleges and attend tuition-free. These programs are funded through sports-related revenues.
Negative correlations. Athletics, and football, can be the most visible part of a university. Unfortunately, that’s not always a good thing. The most notorious example occurred at (SMU), where the football program received the NCAA “death penalty” because of major violations. Applications fell, but later rebounded. Sometimes football is not the most efficient, cost-effective way for a university to achieve its athletic goals.
As told to Michelle Hiskey, for the AJC