It has been known as the “Flutie Effect” since 1984 but it may now be known as the #DunkCity effect. Florida Gulf Coast has seen a 35.4% increase in year-over-year applications for admission since their improbable and high flying run to the Sweet 16 in March 2013. A recent research paper from April 2013 entitled The Dynamic Advertising Effect of Collegiate Athletics by Doug J. Chung, an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, indicates that on-field success, especially on the biggest stages, can increase the ability of a school to be more selective in their acceptance of students which, in turn, allows the quality of admitted students to rise over time.
Chung mentions that from a period of 1983-1986, Georgetown saw a 45% increase in applications which coincided with a period where the basketball team went to the NCAA Finals 3 times (’82, ’84, ’85) and won the title once (’84). He goes on to say “the primary form of mass media advertising by academic institutions in the United States is, arguably, through its athletic programs.” Chung goes on, “overall, I find that athletic success has a significant impact on the quantity and quality of applicants that a school receives. However, I find that students with lower than average SAT scores have a stronger preference for athletic success, while students with higher SAT scores have a greater preference for academic quality…In addition, I find that when a school goes from being “mediocre” to being “great” on the football field, applications increase 17.7%, with the vast proportion of the increase coming from low-ability students. However, there is also an increase in applications from students at the highest ability level. In order to attain similar effects, a school must either decrease tuition by 3.8% or increase the quality of education by recruiting higher-quality faculty who are paid 5.1% more in the academic labor market. I also find that schools become more selective with athletic success.”
I think the last line is key. It all appears to be a numbers game at the end of the day. Despite the fact that most of the new applicants may be from the lower end of the SAT score spectrum, the total applicant pool will be increased and would allow a school like PC to become a little more selective and maybe be a bit more strategic with how they award scholarships. Fr. Shanley is keenly aware of the demographic issues that PC is facing with the number of Northeast Catholic high school graduates diminishing in the near future and he is a big believer that in order to succeed in the world of “Arms Race Academics”, PC needs to become more of a national school and they won’t be able to rely on being solely regional. He is also keenly aware of athletics as a vehicle for gaining a more broad recognition of PC and the PC brand.
PC’s overall issue, from my perspective, is that they are so heavily reliant on tuition because the endowment is so tiny, that they can be held hostage in terms of selectivity by the need to get enough full paying students through the River Ave gates each year. This situation can be even more dire in years when the economy takes a downturn and PC’s scholarship offerings (or lack thereof in most cases) pale in comparison to other, similar schools not to mention the allure of State school tuitions. The result can be a class where kids that maybe would have been on the waiting list in a normal year are granted immediate acceptance (looking at you, class of 2013) which hurts the overall stats of that incoming class which hurts PC’s rankings and ratings in the various news publications.
Having a deep and memorable NCAA tournament run like #DunkCity would certainly go a long way towards helping PC become more of a national school and maybe even help increase the academic profile and reputations of the College along the way. If anyone can do it at PC, it’s Ed Cooley.