Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Successful intercollegiate sports programs don't improve a school’s undergraduate population

University policy makers and many outside observers generally believe that highly visible intercollegiate athletic success increases the quantity and quality of prospective student applications, as well as bolstering a school’s financial and academic standing. This is sometimes referred to as the “Flutie Factor” in reference to Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie who led his team to a last-minute 1984 football victory on national television, resulting in an alleged windfall of undergraduate applications and other organizational largess. 

Using previously untapped data from the 2005 Educational Longitudinal Survey, underanalyzed data from the Art & Science Group, and original data from three universities, this study challenges the conventional wisdom that highly visible and successful intercollegiate sports programs necessarily improve a school’s undergraduate population. 

Thye authors contend that continued uncritical adherence to empirically problematic ideas like the Flutie Factor reflect a commercialized and corporatized “neoliberal” university, where branding, marketing, and profit maximization trump educational substance. In addition to being empirically suspect, this expensive, neoliberal approach toward sports-based marketing remains strangely unindicted as a contributor to undergraduate education’s skyrocketing cost.

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