• Extra Points
  • Posts
  • Maybe college football isn't the best tool to fight the enrollment cliff

Maybe college football isn't the best tool to fight the enrollment cliff

A new study is skeptical of football's ability to actually drive enrollment

Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.

Way back in 2020, I wrote about an academic study produced out of the University of Georgia. The paper looked dozens of small colleges who had recently started college football programs as part of their efforts to boost student enrollment and retention.

The paper found that starting a football team did provide an immediate short surge in student enrollment (which would make sense, as football rosters are often north of 100 students), but that enrollment gains didn’t continue over time. In some cases, it even led to a decline in student applications and retention.

Student enrollment decisions are rarely the result of just one variable, and the paper did highlight examples of institutions where football appeared to be more successful, like at D-III Berry College in Rome, Georgia. But at first glance, the paper’s argument should have given pause to any administrator who thought that football would automatically be a panacea for any enrollment challenges.

But that was in 2020. That was a whole global pandemic ago, right?

One of the authors of that study, Welch Suggs of the University of Georgia, teamed up with other colleagues at UGA’s Carmical Sports Media Institute and the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education to more closely investigate this question, for another paper, recently published in the Research in Higher Education journal.

Does adding a college football team provide meaningful long-term advantages in college enrollment or collecting tuition?

I’m going to get into the weeds after the jump here, but anybody familiar with Betteridge's law of headlines can probably guess what the paper said.

(the answer is no. But please keep reading anyway)

Subscribe to Premium Membership to read the rest.

Become a paying subscriber of Premium Membership to get access to this post and other subscriber-only content.

Already a paying subscriber? Sign In

A subscription gets you:
FOUR newsletters a week
Access to every single newsletter in our archives
Free stickers! (while supplies last)
Access to Athletic Director Simulator 4000

Join the conversation

or to participate.