Study Links Winning Football and Declining Grades
When a college football team is successful, students put down their books and pick up some beers. In examining the grade-point averages of the Oregon student body and the performance of the Ducks’ football team, the researchers found a relationship between declining grades and success on the field. “Our results support the concern that big-time sports are a threat to American higher education,” the paper’s authors — Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen and Glen R. Waddell — wrote. They said their work was among the first to take a look at the “nonmonetary costs” of college sports. 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.
When you see studies like this, you should always be skeptical. It sounds logical to conclude that when a school's football team is doing well, students are probably having a little more fun and spending less time on their studies. And it may be true. In fact, I'd be surprised if it's not, to be honest. However, after reading the quote from the authors, I'm struck by their sheer conviction. Academics aren't above jumping to conclusions based on one set of data--in this case, the University of Oregon's football team from 1997 to 2007. Further, they're not above taking on a topic in which they can make a name for themselves. Imagine if their data didn't prove their conclusion. It wouldn't make news; it wouldn't get their name into the press; it might not be worth a paper at all.
In order to support the claim that big-time sports are a threat to education, I'd like to see more data from more schools and see it benchmarked. Everything is relative, as they say.