For the 65 colleges and universities that participate in the Power Five athletic conferences (Pac 12, Big 10, SEC, ACC, and Big 12), the football and men’s basketball teams are highly visible. While these programs generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue annually, very few of them turn an operating “profit.” Their existence is thus justified by the claim that athletic success leads to ancillary benefits for the academic institution, in terms of both quantity (e.g., more applications, donations, and state funding) and quality (e.g., stronger applicants, lower acceptance rates, higher yields). Previous studies provide only weak support for some of these claims. Using data from 2006–2016 and a multiple regression model with corrections for multiple testing, we find that while a successful football program is associated with more applicants, there is no effect on the composition of the student body or (with a few caveats) funding for the school through donations or state appropriations.
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