Is Football Worth It?
Academics on campus frequently question whether so much money should be spent on college football programs. For the most part, these catcalls from faculty are rhetorical. Should a coach really be the state’s highest-paid employee? Is a state-of- the-art locker room going to help any student study? No need to respond.
But when UC Berkeley professor Michael Anderson and the National Bureau of Economic Research analyzed NCAA win-loss probability ratios to determine performance metrics of all Division I football universities, they discovered the math does not condemn the investment in football. In fact, it’s the other way around. Having a winning program—and every additional win per season, from 5.9 wins per year upward—increases donations to the university by $100,000. It’s not that more alumni give; it’s that the same alumni donate more.
But what’s most surprising is the connection between success on the football field and a college’s academic metrics. Every additional win on the field leads to:
- An increase in applicants, which allows the college to be more selective
- A higher average SAT score for incoming freshmen
- A boost in the school’s “Academic Reputation,” which is a measure based on polling of university presidents around the country
So while football players may or many not succeed in the classroom, winning football games will drive up the academic standard for the student body as a whole.
Per-win increase in university donations over 5.9 wins/year