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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 01/ 6/2010

The link between sports titles and college applications

By Valerie Strauss

Tomorrow night the national collegiate football championship will be decided in a Bowl Championship Series contest at Pasadena's Rose Bowl Stadium. The University of Texas Longhorns and the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide will be battling for the title.

What will a championship do for the winning school?

Among other things, it will mean that more students will send in applications--almost 10 percent more than the previous year.

It doesn’t sound like rocket science, but two brothers researched the link and found a substantial connection between college applications and success of that college’s major sports teams.

The researchers were Jaren Pope, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech, and Devin Pope, an assistant professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

They co-authored a 2008 paper in the Southern Economic Journal that said the school with the team that wins the national basketball or football title will probably see an 8 percent rise in the number of applications. Schools finishing 16th or 20th in either sports are likely to see a 2 percent rise, the paper said.

This is called the “Flutie Effect,” named after a last-ditch pass by Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie in 1984 that turned out to provide the winning score over defending national champs, University of Miami. The following year, applications to Boston College jumped 16 percent, and then 12 percent in 1985, though school officials said the championship was not the only reason.

Some educational leaders have denied such an effect exists, but the brothers’ research, which covered a period of 19 years, showed otherwise.

The Popes gathered information from approximately 330 colleges and universities nationwide between 1983 and 2002--every institution with an NCAA Division I football or basketball team with the ability to play for a national championship.

In addition, other researchers have showed positive links between college football success and the quality of incoming freshmen and alumni donations.

Is anybody really surprised?

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 6, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Tags:  college admissions, sports  
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