Monday, December 13, 2010

Football has an impact on college quality

US faculty members are currently quite frustrated with sports programs on their campuses as the swallow substantial budgets at the expenses of academics. Very very programs yield a profit, even (American) football is in deficit save for a handful of colleges. And coaches get salaries that are completely disproportionate to the academic mission of universities. Then why are universities willing to invest all this money in sports? The standard answer that this builds alumni loyalty cannot be good, as they typically donate to the athletic foundation, which is run independently from academic budgets. The only advantage, so to speak, are that they reduce the deficit that needs to be covered by academic funds. Another argument is that it attracts better students. I can believe that for some sports, where student athletes are better than the general student population. But there should be better ways to attract good students, like merit scholarships.

Sean Mulholland, Aleksandar Tomic and Samuel Sholander claim that even the football program improves the academic quality of the student body. It is not that the football player are academically gifted, they are certainly not, but it is all about attracting other students. Their assessment is not based on actual fact, but rather on peer evaluation of faculty and university administrators, as they are records in the US News and World Report college rankings. And the better a sports team is, also from peer evaluation by football coaches, the better is the academic reputation of the student body. Now that the rumors have been established, it would be good to back this up with facts...

1 comment:

Sean Mulholland said...

We appreciate you post on our work, however, we are not claiming that college football performance improves the academic quality of the student body. We find that faculty and administrators filling out the peer assessment portion of the USNWR College Rankings are positively influenced by college football performance.

Specifically, we find that National Universities realize a higher peer score when receiving more votes in the AP or Coaches Poll. Controlling for unobserved heterogeneity, our estimates suggest that a one standard deviation increase in the number of votes received in either the Associated Press or USA Today Coaches’ Football Poll is viewed as positively as a forty point increase in a school’s SAT score at the 75th percentile.

Thanks again.