PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – On campus, a successful football team is a cause for celebration.
So much celebration, in fact, that three economists have found a link between a winning season at one big-time football program and lower grades for male students.
In a new paper, the economists at the University of Oregon chart the grade point averages of students there alongside the fortunes of the football team between 1999 and 2007. Their findings could give ammo to critics of big-time college sports.
Their conclusion: When the Ducks were winning, students celebrated more and grades suffered. And that doesn’t bode well for upcoming report cards – the Ducks are 11-2 this season, Pac-12 champions for the third straight year, and headed to the Rose Bowl.
“They drink more when the team wins, they party more when the teams wins, and they study less when the team wins,” said professor Jason Lindo, who is one of three co-authors and says the study is the first of its kind.
Women’s grades held up better than men’s when the team was doing well – and the drop in men’s grades compounded a GPA gender gap that was already present at Oregon, as it is on many campuses.
The bottom line: Three extra wins for the Ducks’ football squad in any given year caused a drop in male GPAs that’s about as steep as the one you’d expect if male students had scored 27 points lower on their SATs.
Chalk it up as another cost to consider for a successful big-time athletic program, right up there with ballooning coaches’ salaries, travel budgets and stadium expansions.
Academically, a school might be better off with a crummy season on the field that makes students want to head to the library to forget.
The study was published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Lindo, Oregon faculty colleague Glen Waddell and graduate student Isaac Swensen examined the GPAs during fall term (football season) of nearly 30,000 students who weren’t athletes, over a period when the Ducks’ football record ranged from 5-6 to 11-1.
On average, men were earning GPAs of 2.94, compared to 3.12 for women. But the more the team won, the more the gap widened; three extra wins amounted to an approximately 8 percent increase in the difference