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It's a college administrator's dream. One or more of their teams have done well, winning a national championship in football and the NCAA men's basketball championship. Applications for admission to schools rise when that school's sports teams do well, even winning championships. What is this thing that people are talking about?
It's called the "Flutie Effect," named for former Boston College quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie. The term was coined when applications to Boston College jumped about 30 percent in the two years after Flutie's Hail Mary pass beat Miami in 1984. The term had been mostly anecdotal. Now it's cold hard fact.
Winning the NCAA football or men's basketball title means a bump of about 8 percent, with smaller increases as the reward for more modest success. Not bad. But there's more research out there. Jaren Pope, an assistant professor in applied economics at Virginia Tech who conducted the study with his brother Devin, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
The brothers compared information on freshman classes at 330 NCAA Division I schools with how the schools' teams fared from 1983 through 2002.
Among their conclusions in a paper that is to be published this year in Southern Economic Journal :
• Schools that make it to the Sweet 16 in the men's basketball tournament see an average 3 percent boost in applications the following year. The champion is likely to see a 7 to 8 percent increase, but just making the 65-team field will net schools an average 1 percent bump.
• Similarly, applications go up 7 to 8 percent at schools that win the national football championship, while schools that finish in the top 20 have a 2.5 percent gain.
Name recognition helps, too. Take Gonzaga. Yes, that Gonzaga, located in Spokane, Washington, in the eastern part of the state. Before they were a winning program in men's basketball, few people heard of the school. Now, they are getting students not just from the Pacific Northwest but from the East Coast. Enrollment swelled from about 4,500 to 7,000. Another example is Drake. Located in Des Moines, Iowa, it has a student population of about 5,000. They're getting students from all over the US because they reach the Sweet 16 almost every year. Other small schools can learn from their mid-major brothers.
The one thing that these schools don't need to do is to dumb things down with regards to admissions. You can get that quality student-athlete if you stay within the rules and guidelines set by your school and the NCAA. Just don't cheat and tarnish your reputations.
So it's not just the big boys, the Georgias, Florida States, Ohio States, et al of the world that are enjoying the fruit of success. If you are a mid major and you're good, expect to be swamped for info from potential college students. LSU's office of admissions had better get ready. They're going to be busy.