Study finds GPAs of male students drop when football team wins

The more the Ducks win on the football field, the more male non-athlete students struggle in the classroom.

Three University economists found that between 1999 and 2007, when the Ducks were winning, such students earned lower grades. And now with three consecutive Pac-12 titles and a Rose Bowl championship, male grades may not score so high.

“This has kind of been the first step in documenting the nonmonetary costs associated with collegiate athletics,” said Isaac Swensen,@@[email protected]@ one of the study’s co-authors and a University graduate student.

The study was published in December in the National Bureau of Economic Research.@@ The economists charted the GPAs of 267,322 students for nine fall terms. During that time, the football team had a varying success rate, which allowed the economists to see how wins and losses affected student performance.

Not only is the study one of the first to look at how a big athletics program affects student success, but it also gives insight to the increasing gender gap in student performance, what Swensen called the “boy crisis.”

“Since the late 1970s, females have been outperforming males in academics,” he said. “Researchers haven’t had a lot of success in explaining this gap.”

The average University male earned a GPA of 2.94, compared with 3.12 for females. The study found that the gender gap widens when the football team wins — three extra wins for the Ducks increases the gap by 8 percent.

“It might be that males are more distracted. It could be their drinking behavior or class attendance,” Swensen said about the drop in male grades. “It’s hard to say what else would affect male grades in a similar way.”

The economists also asked students about their drinking, partying and studying habits when the football team wins. About 50 percent of surveyed male students said they partied more, compared to about 30 percent for females. Males were also more likely to increase their alcohol consumption and study less than females.

Some University students weren’t surprise by the study’s findings.

“I’m thinking about the team (and) the wins, not school,” said University sophomore Preston Pilcher.@@[email protected]@ University sophomore Zander Rohn@@[email protected]@ has one thing in mind for game days: “I plan to drink.”

Although University junior Emily Moore@@[email protected]@ said she thinks the study seems accurate, she also participates in the celebrations.

“When a football game is on, I know I’m not going to do anything that day,” she said.

Swensen said he would expect a similar relationship between other sports and lower GPAs — but with a smaller drop in grades.

“A lot of resources are going into football; a lot of money and a lot of hype,” he said. “Given the hype is smaller in other sports, I would assume it might not be as present in other sports.”

Because the University is similar to other universities with big athletics programs, the economists said the study highlights a common drawback of big-time college sports.

“We need to consider what the academic mission of the University is and how to devote our resources given all the costs and benefits associated with collegiate athletes,” Swensen said. “It’s something to think about.”

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