Budget & Finance

College Football Success Leads to Uptick in Applications, Donations

By Bryan Toporek — July 03, 2012 1 min read
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When colleges and universities continue to pour millions of dollars into big-time football programs, they often justify the spending by claiming that successful programs end up repaying the campus with other benefits.

As it turns out, there may just be something to that argument.

A new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that each extra win from a major football program results in an increase of alumni athletic donations of $136,400.

Not only does winning often result in some extra-stuffed coffers for football programs, it also tends to increase the number of student applications, the incoming SAT scores on said applications, and a school’s academic reputation, according to the research.

The paper’s author, Michael L. Anderson, examined the 120 football teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (what was once known as Division I-A), using data from 1986 to 2009. While previous research has suggested a link between athletic success and a boost to a school’s reputation, Anderson’s paper uncovers a much greater connection than previously suggested.

For a football team that improves its win total by five games from one season to the next, Anderson estimates the school would see an increase of $682,000 in alumni donations, an extra 677 applications, and the school’s acceptance rate to drop by 1.5 percentage points.

Still, these findings shouldn’t encourage school administrators to go dump all their extra money into their football programs, Anderson told Brad Wolverton of

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.