Here's Why Colleges Should Be Pouring Money Into Their Athletic Programs

College football playoff conference champions

Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Critics of college athletic spending, which exceeded $7.9 billion in 2010 argue that the system unfairly allocates resources to sports programs, disregarding the greater good of the student body.But investing in football programs is money well spent, according to a study led by Michael Anderson at University of California Berkeley.

By studying U.S. universities, his team found “robust” evidence that a winning football team improved the school’s overall reputation and quality of students:

We find robust evidence that football success increases athletic donations, increases the number of applicants, lowers a school’s acceptance rate, increases enrollment of in-state students, increases the average SAT score of incoming classes, and enhances a school’s academic reputation. The estimates are up to twice as large as comparable estimates from the previous literature.

A school that improved its season wins by 5 games could expect to see the following results over the next year:

This school may expect alumni athletic donations to increase by $682,000 (28%), applications to increase by 677 (5%), the acceptance rate to drop by 1.5 percentage points (2%), in-state enrollment to increase by 76 students (3%), and incoming 25th percentile SAT scores to increase by 9 points (1%).

Winning a championship increased the metrics even more.

The study provides ammunition for college athletic programs defending their massive budgets.

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