DALLAS — Colleges that succeed in athletics also do well academically because success in sports promotes the school and makes it more attractive to students, according to a study released by the National Center for Policy Analysis.
The study, conducted by Clemson University economists Robert E. McCormick and Maurice Tinsley, found that schools that had extreme success in one sports year had an appropriate increase in good students applying to the school the next year.
"Athletics help advertise the school and increase the number of applicants," said McCormick. "College administrators often respond by raising academic standards."
The study examined 150 colleges and found three universities where a high increase in applications followed sports success.
Just after Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie won the Heisman Trophy in 1985, freshman applications to the college increased by 30%.
Applications increased 40% at North Carolina State University following its NCAA basketball championship in 1983, the study says.
At the University of South Carolina, the study found that applications increased 23% when the school had one of its best years ever in football in 1985.
Increased applications for entrance enables schools to select better students and raise academic standards, the study found. Among colleges that belong to major athletic conferences, those that improved their football records between 1971 and 1984 had a significant improvement in Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores for entering freshmen in the early 1980s.
The study also found that the 63 sports-oriented colleges that were analyzed attracted better students than the other 87 colleges, showing that just participating in sports enhances academic quality.
"There is no conflict between college athletics and academic quality," McCormick said. "Eliminating participation in big-time sports would hurt funding, enrollment and academic standards."
The study also found that gifts to college athletics actually enhance academic programs.
"Donations to college athletics do not siphon funds from academic programs," McCormick said. "When athletic gifts go up, academic gifts also increase."
Clemson University was an example of this athletic-academic relationship. The researchers found that for every 10% increase in alumni donations to the athletic program, donations to academic programs increased by 5%.