Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Last night Belmont's men's basketball team beat a very good UW-Green Bay team 80 to 65 in the first round of the NIT. Both teams were extremely close to making the NCAA tournament this year. Earlier this year, Belmont beat highly ranked UNC and UW-Greenbay beat ACC-Champs UVA.
[Photos courtsey of Belmont University Basketball]
Why is Belmont basketball relevant to this blog?
Well, actually, I just wanted to brag on my school's team, but I will try to make a connection.
Some extremely interesting studies have been done tying atheletic success to increased applications, increased selectivity, and/or higher (academic) rankings. See, e.g., Jain (Wharton) and Toma & Cross (UMKC & Michigan). (While my co-blogger Steve Bradford called the U.S. News rankings of law schools "meaningless" earlier this week, even he admitted that rankings influence some student decisions.)
In a similar study, a personal friend of mine and University of Georgia doctoral candidate, Michael Trivette, co-authored a paper in 2012 with Dennis Kramer (UVA) about the increases in selectivity and accepted student standardized test scores experienced by schools that switched athletic conferences.
Whether the time and money put into college sports is worthwhile makes for heated debate, and I am sure there are studies challenging some of the findings in the papers I linked to above.
Personally, I love being at a school with competitive Division-I sports (even though we do not have a football team...). First, I am convinced our sports teams are helping us recruit better students, Second, I think the teams help create community and school loyalty. Third, I think our basketball team is one of the handful of things that has given our relatively unknown (but wonderful) school national attention (a few of the other ventures onto the national stage include our school's appearances on the TV show Nashville, the annual airing of Christmas at Belmont on PBS, and the hosting of a 2008 presidential debate...not necessarily in order of importance).
A few of my co-bloggers teach at schools with some of the most successful athletic programs in the country (Duke, Nebraska, West Virginia). I imagine they may have their own views, and I know that the relationship between university sports and academics is a complex one.
Update: As noted in the comments, here is an article on Butler University's 40% increase in applications following their NCAA tournament runs. The article's author also claims that Butler received $1 billion worth of media attention. (Granted, making the NCAA finals is very different than a first round NIT win, or even a win over UNC, but we have to start somewhere).