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Admissions score: sports success and college applications.

IT WAS THE CINDERELLA STORY of this year's NCAA basketball tournament: 10th seed Davidson College (N.C.) upsetting second seed Georgetown in the second round to advance to the "Sweet 16." By week's end, the 1,700-student liberal arts college released a celebratory fact sheet with stats on everything from the last time Davidson made it that far (1969) to the number of new Facebook "friend" requests received by one basketball team member (1,800). Officials also reported a 1,200 percent increase in transfer inquiries and 10 new admissions office inquiries about the application deadline (already passed).

Based on anecdotal evidence and some studies, administrators expect to score application wins following major sports victories. New research quantifies the average effects of basketball and football success across all NCAA Division I schools. Jaren Pope, assistant professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech, conducted the study with his brother Devin Pope, an assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. They examined data from 1983 to 2002 on application numbers and applicant SAT scores at the 330 schools.

One finding that Davidson officials will surely want to know: Making the Sweet 16 may boost applicant numbers by as much as 3 percent the next year. And the March Madness winner (The University of Kansas this year) may see a 7 to 8 percent jump in applications. Private schools tended to get the biggest boost, notes Jaren Pope. The applications spike associated with both basketball and football success continues for several years. In addition, the extra applications include students with both low and high SAT scores. "Schools can exploit these extra applications by selecting high-quality students to improve the quality of their freshman class," he says.

Pope knows the study will interest administrators, but he cautions that these temporary application bumps "do not address whether putting more money into sports programs is the best use of resources." He's left with a big question that may spur further study: Just why is it that sports success influences where students apply?


NCAA Men's Basketball:
Championship Tournament Success
and % Increase in Student
Applications (Next Year)

Make the tournament 1%
Make the Sweet 16 3
Make the Final Four 4-5
Win the championship 7-8


NCAA Football:
Bowl Championship Series Success
and % Increase in Student
Applications (Next Year)

Make the Top 20 2.5%
Make the Top 10 3
Win the championship 7-8

Source: "The Impact of College Sports Success on the Quantity and
Quality of Student Applications," Department of Agricultural and
Applied Economics, Virginia Tech
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Title Annotation:STATS WATCH
Author:Ezarik, Melissa
Publication:University Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2008
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