“Our results support the concern that big-time sports are a threat to American higher education”

December 22nd, 2011

At least, that is the case made by threeUniversity of Oregon economistswhose study was released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

In examining the grade-point averages of the Oregon student body and the performance of the Ducks’ football team, the researchers found a relationship between declining grades and success on the field.

“Our results support the concern that big-time sports are a threat to American higher education,” the paper’s authors — Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen and Glen R. Waddell — wrote. They said their work was among the first to take a look at the “nonmonetary costs” of college sports.

Male students were more likely than female students to increase their alcohol consumption and celebrating and decrease studying when a team fared well, resulting in lower grade-point averages, according to the study.

Women also showed a decline in academic performance, though smaller than their male counterparts. For both sexes, the slack in studying and pop in partying was present only in fall quarters, aligning with the football season.

Oh as a PSU alum, I can attest to this. On football weekends (that is, from Thursday-Monday) the school was basically shut down.

From the historical data, the researchers found the relationship between lower grade-point averages and wins for the football team. To try to learn what was driving the findings, they conducted a survey of undergraduates who attended Oregon for two or more years.

Some 24 percent of male students said that the success of Oregon’s football team definitely or probably decreased the amount of time they spent studying for classes, compared with 9 percent for women. Both men and women reported that they were more likely to consume alcohol, skip class or party in the wake of a win compared with a loss.

Relative to female students, “we observe a decrease in male academic time investment and an increase in distracting or risky behaviors in response to increased athletic success,” the researchers wrote.