Fraternal researchers Jaren and Devin Pope recently completed their study of the impact of college sports success on admissions, finding that the number of applications increases between 2 percent and 8 percent for the top 20 football schools and top 16 basketball schools each year.
The variation in the percentages can be attributed to the schools' rankings in their respective sports. For example, the team finishing first in either sport will likely experience the 8 percent applicant pool increase, whereas the schools finishing 16th or 20th will see the 2 percent rise.
Dubbed the "Flutie Effect," the research is based on the 30 percent application increase in the two years after Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass gave Boston College a win over defending national champion Miami in 1984.
Jaren Pope, an assistant professor in the agriculture department at Tech, has been working on the research project since the idea was originally pitched in 2004.
The brothers gathered information from approximately 330 colleges and universities nationwide between 1983 and 2002. This included every American institution that has an NCAA Division I football or basketball team with the ability to play for a national championship. Among those studied was Virginia Tech.
Their findings, forthcoming in the Southern Economic Journal, also shows contrast between private and public universities. Private schools showed a 5 percent increase in applicants, compared to 3 percent among public schools.
David Warren, the president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, has spoken out against the premise behind the Flutie Effect, labeling it a myth.
Warren's reasoning is that a successful season on the playing field only translates to a one-year bump in applications, often not increasing the applicant pool.
Pope, however, said that his research shows an increased pool with students possessing both low and high SAT scores.
"A school can exploit that by enrolling more, or being more selective to improve their incoming freshman class," Jaren Pope said.
Additionally, Pope said it is almost impossible to accurately identify the impact that a successful sports program has over a one- or two-year period. Pope's research covers a 19-year period, enabling the studies to show the increase as well as the stability that followed.
Don Walsch, George Mason University's press secretary, said that his school had an experience very similar to that shown in Pope's research.
"We experienced a number of visible results from our Final Four experience," Walsch said. "They were in admissions, alumni activities, people participating in events and a wide-range of other things."
Walsch added that he did not think there were any drawbacks to attention surrounding Mason's 2006 NCAA tournament run, noting that it made much of the country curious about where the college is located and what they are about.
"It increased our visibility nationwide enormously," Walsch said. "It puts a spotlight on us in a big way for people who didn't know who we were or what we were about. There was a genuine sense of pride in those affiliated with the university, either currently or in the past."