Does College Football Make Students Dumber?

Does a winning college football team make it’s students stupid?
Maybe. At least the men.
That’s the conclusion you could reach after reading a study released right at the beginning of the college bowl season by economists at the University of Oregon. The researchers examined the grade point averages of the student body at the University of Oregon and compared them to the performance of  Oregon’s football team.
“Our results support the concern that big-time sports are a threat to American higher education,” the authors wrote.
The New York Times wrote an article yesterday about the college football study. Here is an excerpt of the key findings:
The greater the football team’s success, the wider the gender gap in academic performance. Glen R. Waddell, one of the researchers, was quoted as saying, “I teach these students and I know that on Thursdays there’s this subtle distraction in the classroom, and the game isn’t even until Saturday.”
The economists looked at Oregon undergraduate transcripts of close to 28,000 non-athletes from 1999 through 2007. During that period, the Oregon Ducks had an average winning percentage 68%. The economists included interviews with students during this period of time and discovered that 24% of male students said Oregon football wins definitely or probably decreased their study time compared with nine percent of women.
What’s my take on the study? I think it’s just another indication that college football has gotten out of control. Coaches salaries, player exploitation, a wide variety of scandals (Penn State just one of many) are just some of the problems, but I don’t see this genie ever getting shoved back into the bottle. Sad, but true.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller,  and a financial aid workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: Great Ways to Cut the Price of a Bachelor’s Degree, which is only available on her website.

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  1. Hi Lynn,
    I love your blog, book (The College Solution) and workbook. I only wish I’d been enlightened sooner. With my second (of five) now a senior, I should have known more about this process by now. As it is, I’m scrambling to get us all up to date as the Jan 15 and Feb 1 deadlines approach. My oldest is at a service academy and my second wants to attend as well, but odds aren’t as good as with the oldest. Thanks to your recent blogs, we’ve expanded his application list a bit to include some schools he might actually get into, with substantial merit money (hopefully) although we know a good bit has already been offered to earlier applicants.
    I’ve been thinking about your new book. I just finished Ch. 32 of the current edition. Knowing When to do What. Perhaps, if there’s time, you could add to your new book a paragraph on ROTC/Service Academy applications and how they are rolling and begin being considered in August. If a kid waits til school starts in September to get recommendations from teachers, he might miss two rounds of consideration. He/she should ask his math/science teachers and counselors three-four weeks before school gets out in May/June for their recommendations. My son was able to squeak through to the August board and received notification of his NROTC scholarship in early October. Sounds great… but he still needs to get into the school to whose unit he was assigned. Another long-shot.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us all, and creating a great forum for allowing us to share, too!

    1. Thanks for your note Amy. What a coincidence, I was just proofreading the chapter that you referred to. I didn’t know about the service academy/ROTC deadlines, which is good to know!
      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  2. Interesting piece.
    Corollary question: U of O is NCAA Division I. Were there any findings about different division levels in sports regarding alcohol consumption (“partying”) and GPAs?