From the Playing Field to the Classroom
The competition among American colleges and universities for top students is now more fierce than ever. As the population of U.S. high school seniors has grown in recent years and the Common Application has facilitated the college application process, American institutions of higher education have scrambled to find new ways to encourage prospective students to apply and compel admitted students to matriculate. Among other factors that influence prospective students’ decisions during the college search and selection process, the existence of intercollegiate athletic programs may have a significant impact on students’ decisions to apply to or enroll at a particular university. However, many high-ranking officials within the realm of higher education seem to support the notion that athletics detract from academic prestige. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to test these two claims. An analysis of the data from U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of America’s Best National Universities for the past five years revealed that athletics did not detract from academic prestige, as there was no relationship discovered between existence of big-time intercollegiate athletic programs at an institution and that institution’s peer assessment score. A survey of 173 undergraduate students at Boston College supported the claim that the existence of intercollegiate athletic programs significantly impacted students’ decisions to apply to or enroll at Boston College. Furthermore, these survey results suggested that application numbers and yield at Boston College would decline if its big-time intercollegiate athletic programs were eliminated.