Football team success throws fall grades of non-athletic college males for a loss

December 30, 2011

( -- College football bowl season is in prime time, and a new report card is in: Male grades drop relative to female grades when their college football team performs well during the regular season.

Male college students who don't participate in sports -- report a three-member team of University of Oregon economists -- get caught up in the excitement of their teams' winning and "are more likely than females to increase , decrease studying and increase partying in response to the success of the team."

The study looked at students' grade data at the University of Oregon from 1999 through 2007, covering nine seasons when the football program was rising but inconsistent. The Ducks were 76-35 during those years, including a 4-3 record in post-season bowl appearances. That's a winning percentage of 68 percent.

Female students aren't necessarily off the hook, said Jason M. Lindo, co-author of the study, which was published this month in the "Working Paper Series," a publication of the National Bureau of Economic Research that is circulated for discussion purposes and not peer-reviewed. (Download a PDF of the paper "Are Big-Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement?")

The data did not reveal declines in the grade-point averages (GPAs) of women, who did acknowledge drinking and partying more, but not at the pace of men, Lindo said. It appeared, he added, that the practice of curving grades in the classrooms probably masked any declines in women's performance. As males' dipped, grading curves declined, too.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

"In short, the effects that we identify on GPAs are relatively small," Lindo said. "Three fewer wins per season [based on a 60-percent winning season] shrinks the in GPAs, which favors females, by about 8 percent. That being said, we think that this finding really understates the effects on learning. Suppose all students were affected equally by the performance of the football team. If that were to happen, then we would see no impact at all on GPAs if all the professors were grading on a curve."

In general, men's GPAs tend to run .18 below those of women, researchers noted. Based on the Ducks' winning percentages each season, the gaps between men and women were evident. Less wins and less hoopla meant higher grades for men. In 2002, 2004, and 2006, when the Ducks were 7-6, 5-6 and 7-6, respectively, the gender gaps were small. In 2001 and 2005, when the Ducks were 11-1 and 10-2, respectively, the gaps widened.

These gaps coincided with acknowledged student behaviors. Following a win, men reported drinking and partying more, studying less and missing more classes than when the team loses. The same trends, but at lower levels, were followed by women, except they maintained their usual time studying.

The findings, researchers say, raise questions about the impact of big-time collegiate sports in terms of subsidies paid through public funds and tuition dollars funneled into athletic departments. The researchers say that the findings call for deeper studies on the cost effects of high-octane sports on academics and should not be taken as a condemnation of college athletics.

In 2010, researchers noted, 211 of 218 Division 1 university athletics departments that are subject to open-records laws received subsidies that averaged $9 million each. Subsidies were calculated using revenue categories that include student fees, direct and indirect institutional support and direct state support.

"There are important costs that policymakers need to consider when they think about the funds that are being directed toward big-time sports," Lindo said. "There are costs in terms of the academic mission of universities. We wouldn't go as far as to say big-time sports are bad. There certainly are lots of benefits. Students certainly enjoy them. Communities certainly enjoy them. But when we are thinking about spending in this area, we have to take these costs into consideration."

The Ducks in the 2008-2011 seasons have won 42, or 82 percent, of 51 games. They are 1-2 in bowl appearances. Winners of this season's first Pac 12 Championship game, the Ducks play the University of Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. Lindo said that he hopes to track GPA data from these seasons in a later study.

Explore further: Football game days tops for drinking among college students

Related Stories

Women have the numbers but find college is still a struggle

September 18, 2008

( -- Women may maintain a numerical advantage over men at U.S. colleges and universities, but they also experience greater economic hardship, higher levels of stress and less academic confidence, according to ...

Academic probation hits college guys harder

May 13, 2010

Male college students, especially those who had done well in their high-school classes, are much more likely than females to drop out when placed on academic probation after their first year in school, according to a researcher ...

Recommended for you

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.