Study Links College Football Success To Decrease In Male GPA
December 25, 2011

Study Links College Football Success To Decrease In Male GPA

Could a college football team's success be causing male students to struggle in the classroom? A recent study from the University of Oregon seems to suggest so.

According to the Associated Press (AP), economists at the Eugene-based school compared the grade point averages (GPAs) of students, both male and female, to the performance of the university's football team between 1999 and 2009. They concluded that as the Oregon Ducks football squad succeeded, students tended to celebrate more, and their academic performance suffered as a result.

"They drink more when the team wins, they party more when the teams wins, and they study less when the team wins," Professor Jason Lindo, one of three co-authors of the study, which was published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), told the AP.

Lindo and colleagues Isaac D. Swensen and Glen R. Waddell said that their study, which analyzed the undergraduate transcripts of nearly 30,000 non-athlete students enrolled at the university during a period in which the Ducks football team had a yearly winning percentage ranging from 45% to 92%, called their work the first study to ever analyze the "nonmonetary costs" of college athletics, according to a December 21 article by Mary Pilon of the New York Times.

According to the study, men had an average GPA of 2.94 during the period of the study, compared to 3.12 for women. However, they found that as the team enjoyed greater on-field success, the gap between males and females increased, with three additional wins resulting in an 8% widening of the gender gap.

"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," Pilon wrote.

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

According to the AP, Lindo, Swensen and Waddell conducted a survey of students which asked male students whether or not their study time decreased when the football team was having a good season. Nearly one-quarter of all men said that they "definitely" or "probably" studied less, compared to just 9% of women. Furthermore, nearly half of all men said that they partied more, versus just 28% of women.

"It's consistent with the culture on campus and the culture at this university where a stronger emphasis is put on athletic success than on academic success," student government president Ben Eckstein, a self-described fan of the Ducks football team, told the AP.

Eckstein added that he believed that the fiscal and building priorities at the university favored sports facilities over academic ones, and that there is "a lack of focus on connecting our athletic success to our academic mission," which ultimately has an impact on students.

When asked to respond, the university referred the AP to a statement from acting provost Lorraine Davis, in which she said, "Academic success has been and remains the top priority at the University of Oregon“¦ I am proud of the academic strengths of the institution. Our athletic programs enhance experiences for our students, faculty, alumni and the greater community."


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