College Football Victories = Worse Grades?

Rose Bowl 2010: Ohio St. Buckeyes vs. Oregon Ducks. (Photo:

Yes, at least for guys. That’s according to a new study (abstract; PDF) by University of Oregon economists Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen, and Glen R. Waddell. Drawing on 8 years of data from nearly 30,000 Oregon students, they found that three fewer Ducks’ wins per season would increase male students’ GPA scores by roughly .02 — a relatively minor effect, truth be told, considering that three extra wins in college football is the difference between a good team and a bad one.

The authors attribute the grade drop to an increase in partying and alcohol consumption when the team wins, paired with a decrease in studying. Women also tend to drink and party more when the Ducks win, but the GPA effect wasn’t nearly as strong. So if you’re the parent of an Oregon student, you might be rooting for the Ducks to lose a little more often than they do.


James

Taking an average over the whole student body, or even the male part of it, probably understates the magnitude of the effect on those affected. There are (at least judging from my own college career) large segments of the student body - most engineering & science majors, foreign students, &c) who're only peripherally aware of even the existence of sports teams.

caleb b

I bet it's worse in the SEC. Except at Ole Miss, where they get blasted win or lose.

MIkeM

Any parent who roots for their child's college team to suck for the sake of a .02 bump in grades has really got to get a grip.

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I wonder if the same phenomenon happens if the local non-university sports team is winning. For example, do grades go down at the University of Munich when FC Bayern is winning?

Cory

I spent two years travelling from university to university working with a national student organization. I used to root against the school I was visiting next, particularly if they were ranked highly, because the students were always much easier to deal with. So this does not surprise me at all.

That said, if parents took the time spent worrying about this to teach their children the importance of studying even when the team is winning, there wouldn't be an issue.

JC

Why does it have to be an alcohol effect? That attribution feels pretty lazy to me.

A more plausible explanation is a self-esteem effect. If the team is winning, students feel better about themselves and are less likely to put in the extra effort. After all, who needs another A+ when you already are feeling awesome after the team beat State last weekend?

Sorry . . . I just find the claim of alcohol effect to be lame. I'm betting a similar effect occurs at BYU and Utah.

Matt Britt

Thanks so much for featuring my photo!