Research in Higher Education

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 633–661 | Cite as

INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS AND STUDENT COLLEGE CHOICE: Exploring the Impact of Championship Seasons on Undergraduate Applications

  • J. Douglas Toma
  • Michael E. Cross


Among large universities, success inhigh-profile intercollegiate athletics appears to be onefactor among several in the college choice process foraspiring undergraduates. Winning a national championship in one of the two most visible college sports— football and men's basketball — isroutinely accompanied by significant positive attentionfor an institution. That attention appears to translateinto increases in applications received for undergraduateadmission in subsequent admissions cycles. We comparedyear-to-year and multiyear changes in the number ofapplications submitted following winning a national championship with changes in parallel sets ofdata from peer institutions that did not experience achampionship, thereby isolating athletic success as afactor in the college choice process. We found that notable increases generally occurred inadmissions applications received-both in absolute termsbut more importantly relative to peer schools — inthe years following the championship season.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adler, Patricia A., and Adler, Peter (1991). Backboards and Blackboards. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, Caroline (1996). Battle's End: A Seminole Football Team Revisited. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  3. Allen, Walter R. (1992). The color of success: African-American college student outcomes at predominantly white and historically black public colleges and universities. Harvard Education Review62(1): 26-44.Google Scholar
  4. Andre, Judith, and James, David N. (eds.) (1991). Rethinking College Athletics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bouse, Gary A., and Hossler, Don (1991). Studying college choice: A progress report. Journal of College Admission130: 11-16.Google Scholar
  6. Braxton, John M., et al. (1995). Expectations for college and student persistence. Research in Higher Education36(5): 595-612.Google Scholar
  7. Byers, Walter (1995). Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chapman, Randall G. (1979). Pricing policy and the college choice process. Research in Higher Education10(1): 37-57.Google Scholar
  9. Chapman, Randall G. (1993). Non-simultane ous relative importance performance analysis: Meta-results from 80 college choice surveys with 55,276 respondents. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education4(1–2): 405-422.Google Scholar
  10. Euchner, Charles C. (1993). Playing the Field: Why Sports Teams Move and Cities Fight to Keep Them. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fleisher, Arthur A., III, Goff, Brian L., and Tollison, Robert D. (1992). The National Collegiate Athletic Association: A Study in Cartel Behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  12. Flint, Thomas A. (1992). Does financial aid make students consider colleges with a wider cost range? Journal of Student Financial Aid21(2): 21-32.Google Scholar
  13. Funk, Gary (1991). Major Violations: The Unbalanced Priorities. Champaign, IL: Leisure Press.Google Scholar
  14. Galotti, Kathleen M., and Mark, Melissa C. (1994). How do high school students structure an important life decision: A short-term longitudinal study of the college decision-making process. Research in Higher Education35(5): 589-607.Google Scholar
  15. Grimes, P. W., and Chressanthis, G. A. (1993). Intercollegiate and first year student enrollment demand. Sociology of Sport Journal10(3): 286-300.Google Scholar
  16. Guttmann, Allen (1991). Women's Sports: A History. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hamrick, Florence A., and Hossler, Don (1996). Diverse information gathering methods in the postsecondary decision making process. Review of Higher Education19(2): 179-198.Google Scholar
  18. Heath, Will Carrington (1993). Choosing the right pond: College choice and the quest for status. Economics of Education Review12 (March): 81-88.Google Scholar
  19. Henderson, Cathy (1992). College Freshmen with Disabilities: A Statistical Profile. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.Google Scholar
  20. Higgs, Robert J. (1995). God in the Stadium: Sports and Religion in America. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.Google Scholar
  21. Hossler, Don, and Foley, Erin M. (1995). Reducing the noise in the college choice process: The use of college guidebooks and ratings. New Directions in Institutional Research88: 21-30.Google Scholar
  22. Hossler, Don, and Gallagher, Karen S. (1987). Studying student college choice: A three phrase model and the implications for policymakers. College and University62: 207-221.Google Scholar
  23. Hossler, Don, and Stage, Frances (1992). Family and high school experience factors' influence on the postsecondary plans of ninth-grade students. American Educational Research Journal29(2): 425-451.Google Scholar
  24. Hossler, Don, and Vesper, Nick (1993). An exploratory study of the factors associated with parental saving for postsecondary education. Journal of Higher Education64(2): 140-165.Google Scholar
  25. Hossler, Don, Braxton, John, and Coopersmith, Georgia (1989). Understanding student college choice. In John C. Smart (ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, vol. 5 (pp. 231-288). New York: Agathon Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hossler, Don, et al. (1991). An evaluation of a home visit admissions program. College and University67(1): 7-13.Google Scholar
  27. Kallio, Ruth E. (1995). Factors influencing the college choice decision of graduate students. Research in Higher Education36(1): 109-124.Google Scholar
  28. Kearney, Gretchen Warner, and Townsend, Barbara K. (1991). The gypsy student in higher education: Background characteristics and interinstitutional movements of multiple transfer students. Paper presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Education Annual Meeting. ERIC ED 339313.Google Scholar
  29. Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics (1993). A New Beginning for a New Century: Intercollegiate Athletics in the United States: Final Report. Charlotte, NC: Knight Foundation.Google Scholar
  30. Lapchick, Richard E. (ed.) (1996). Sport in Society: Equal Opportunity or Business as Usual. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  31. Lapchick, Richard E., and Slaughter, John B. (eds.) (1994). The Rules of the Game: Ethics in College Sport. Phoenix: ACE-Oryx Press Series on Higher Education.Google Scholar
  32. Leppel, Karen (1993). Logit estimation of a gravity model of the college enrollment decision. Research in Higher Education34(3): 387-398.Google Scholar
  33. Lester, Robin (1995). Stagg's University: The Rise, Decline and Fall of Big-Time Football at The University of Chicago. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  34. Levine, Peter (1992). Ellis Island to Ebbetts Field: Sport and the American Jewish Experience. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Litten, Larry (1982). Different strokes in the applicant pool: Some refinements in a model of student college choice. Journal of Higher Education53(4): 383-402.Google Scholar
  36. Malaney, Gary D. (1997). Why students pursue graduate education, how they find out about a program, and why they apply to a specific school. College and University62(3): 247-258.Google Scholar
  37. Manski, C. F., and Wise, D. A. (1983). College Choice in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Maxey, James, et al. (1995). Are black students less likely to enroll at their first choice college? Journal of Blacks in Higher Education7: 100-101.Google Scholar
  39. McCormick, R. E., and Tinsley, M. (1987). Athletics versus academics? Evidence from SAT scores. Journal of Political Economy95(5): 1103-1115.Google Scholar
  40. McDonough, Patricia A. (1991). Who goes where to college: Social class and organizational context effects. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  41. McDonough, Patricia (1994). Buying and selling higher education: The social construction of the college applicant. Journal of Higher Education65(4): 427-446.Google Scholar
  42. McPherson, Michael S., and Schapiro, Morton Owen (1994). College choice and family income: Changes over time in the higher education destinations of students from different income backgrounds. American Freshman Survey. ERIC ED 380024.Google Scholar
  43. Mixon, F. G., and Hsing, Y. (1994). The determinants of out-of-state enrollments in higher education: A Tobit analysis. Economics of Education Review13 (December): 329-335.Google Scholar
  44. Moore, Robert L., et. al. (1991). The effect of the financial aid package on the choice of a selective college. Economics of Education Review10(4): 311-321.Google Scholar
  45. Muffo, John (1987). Market segmentation in higher education: A case study. Journal of Student Financial Aid17(3): 31-40.Google Scholar
  46. Murphy, R. G., and Trandel, G. A. (1994). The relation between a university's football record and the size of its applicant pool. Economics of Education Review13 (September): 265-270.Google Scholar
  47. Paulsen, Michael B. (1990). College choice: Understanding student enrollment behavior. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, No. 6. Washington, DC: The George Washington University.Google Scholar
  48. Raitz, Kark B. (1995). The Theatre of Sport. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Riess, Stephen A. (1990). City Games: The Evolution of American Urban Society and the Rise of Sports. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  50. Roberts, Randy, and Olson, James (1989). Winning Is the Only Thing: Sports in America Since 1945. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Sack, Allen L. (1991). The underground economy of college football. Sociology of Sport Journal8(1): 1-15.Google Scholar
  52. Segelman, Lee (1995). It's academic, or is it? Admissions standards and big-time college football. Social Science Quarterly76(2): 247-261.Google Scholar
  53. Sekely, William S., and Yates, Rebecca M. J. (1991). Multiple positions for an academic institution: A factor analysis. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education3(2): 87-104.Google Scholar
  54. Sewell, W. H., and Shaw, V. P. (1978). Social class, parental encouragement, and education aspirations. American Sociological Review40(1): 1014-1027.Google Scholar
  55. Shropshire, Kenneth L. (1991). Agents of Opportunity: Sports Agents and Corruption in Collegiate Sports. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  56. Smith, Kerry (1990). A comparison of the college choice decisions of two-year and four-year college students. College and University65(2): 109-126.Google Scholar
  57. Smith, Kerry, and Bers, Trudy H. (1989). Parents and the college choice decisions of community college students. College and University64(4): 335-348.Google Scholar
  58. Smith, Ronald A. (1990). Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Sperber, Murray (1991). College Sports, Inc.: The Athletic Department vs. the University. New York: Henry Holt and Company.Google Scholar
  60. Stage, Frances, and Hossler, Don (1989). Differences in family influences on college attendance plans for male and female ninth graders. Research in Higher Education30(3): 301-315.Google Scholar
  61. Symposium (1995). Sports reform: College athletics in flux. Journal of College and University Law22(1).Google Scholar
  62. Thelin, John R. (1994). Games Colleges Play: Scandal and Reform in Intercollegiate Athletics. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Toma, J. Douglas (forthcoming). The Stadium and the Ivory Tower: Intercollegiate Athletics and Institutional Identity. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press (contract pending).Google Scholar
  64. Trusheim, Dale, Crouse, James, and Middaugh, Michael (1990). College applicants' attitudes and enrollment decision. Research in Higher Education31(3): 295-305.Google Scholar
  65. Tucker, I. B., and Amato, L. (1993). Does big-time success in football or basketball affect SAT scores. Economics of Education Review, 12 (June): 177-181.Google Scholar
  66. Villella, Edward F., and Hu, Michael (1990). College choice as a linking variable between recruitment and retention. Joumal of Marketing for Higher Education3(1): 79-88.Google Scholar
  67. Wanat, Carolyn, and Bowles, B. Dean (1992). College choice and the recruitment of academically talented high school students. Journal of College Admission136: 23-29.Google Scholar
  68. Weiler, William C. (1994). Transition for consideration of a college to the decision to apply. Research in Higher Education35(6): 631-646.Google Scholar
  69. Weise, Michael D., and Townsend, Barbara K. (1991). College choice in the church-affiliated sector of higher education: The influence of congregational cultural orientation. Research in Higher Education32(2): 107-122.Google Scholar
  70. Welki, Andrew M., and Navratil, Frank J. (1987), The role of applicants' perceptions in the choice of college. College and University62(2): 147-160.Google Scholar
  71. Wesley, Homer A., and Southerland, Arthur R. (1994). General college choice models and ethnic minority recruitment. Journal of College Admission143: 18-21.Google Scholar
  72. Young, Michael, and Reyes, Pedro (1987). Conceptualizing enrollment behavior. Journal of Student Financial Aid17(3): 41-49.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Douglas Toma
  • Michael E. Cross

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations