Whoa. We’re good at football! For those who were unable to make it to the game on Friday night, the BC Eagles football team was on the warpath, absolutely destroying Florida State 35-3 at Alumni Stadium. It was a huge win for our program, coming on national TV on ESPN in prime time, with people all over the country watching at home. The Twittersphere was filled with BC related tweets, including tweets from Sports Illustrated (1.72 million followers) and Bleacher Report (5.45 million followers), among many others.
With all of the love that BC Football was getting on TV and online, I began to think about the different ways that this exposure would benefit Boston College as a whole. As it turns out, there has been research done on the effect that being good at college football has on the academic quality of the school. Believe it or not, the connection between athletic success and academic prowess is commonly known as “The Flutie Effect.” This is because, after Doug Flutie threw his infamous “Hail Mary” against the University of Miami in 1984, applications to Boston College rose by 30% in the next two years. More applications from more students allows universities to be more selective in who they admit in to the university, thereby raising the academic standard of the school as a whole.
Flutie’s Hail Mary is one of the first examples of athletics tangibly benefitting the academic quality of a university. There have been many other examples since, such as applications at Georgetown rising by 45% during a stretch of basketball success from 1983-1986, or applications at Northwestern increasing by 21% after winning the Big Ten Football Championship. The matriculation rate for prospective students to George Mason University tripled after their run to the Final Four. In a study done by Harvard Business School professor Doug Chung entitled The Dynamic Advertising Effect of Collegiate Athletics, he found that when schools go from mediocre to great in football, applications go up by 18.7% on average. Professor Chung also claims that “The primary form of mass media advertising by academic institutions in the United States is, arguably, through their athletic programs,” emphasizing just how important success in intercollegiate athletics can be.
Boston College is sure to receive some sort of benefit in admissions from this game and hopefully from continued football success this year. While it will be nothing like the 30% jump in applications we received after the Flutie game, having a strong football program can only benefit our school. We still have some noteworthy games remaining, highlighted by a showdown with UCONN at Fenway Park, as well as hopefully a bowl game. If you are a high school senior sitting at home or scrolling through Twitter, Friday night’s win makes Boston College look like a pretty fun place to be.
The popularity of a successful sports team, particularly in heavily-televised sports like football and basketball, essentially functions as an advertisement for the university. Every bit of news reported on one of our sports teams increases the “brand awareness” of Boston College. Every time we are on SportsCenter, every time we are tweeted out by a major news or sports news organization, or every time someone retweets BC Athletics’ own tweets, Boston College is implanted in the back of the minds of prospective students nationwide. This increased brand awareness will help Boston College attract students even if they aren’t interested in sports. The more times BC gets mentioned digitally nationwide, the better it is for the school.
In addition, increased athletics success has been linked to a higher rate of alumni donations to the school, which can be used to improve the university as a whole. Annual donations to Gonzaga University have almost doubled since they began their run of basketball success with a trip to the Elite Eight in 1999. Alumni that come back for games will feel more connected and nostalgic towards the university, and more inclined to donate. TV contracts, ticket sales, and apparel sales also all serve to benefit the university financially. Financial success will allow the schools to upgrade academic buildings, dorms, and other aspects of the school that will help bring more students to BC, even if they have no interest in athletics.
Boston College certainly recognizes the importance of last night’s win, and they’ve been incredibly active on all of their social media accounts to try and ride the wave of publicity.
The BC Football Twitter account alone tweeted 97 times between the start of the football game at 8:00 PM Friday night, and 2:00 PM the next day. Talk about spamming my feed! In addition, almost every BC-related tweet by a professional athlete, and every article about the Eagles from the Globe or the Herald was retweeted by the account. They certainly recognize the importance of capitalizing on the win, and spreading the good word about BC any way that they can.
As a result of BC Football’s win, Boston College will receive a tangible benefit in brand awareness due to digital chatter about the school. This will lengthen the reach and exposure of BC, and strengthen the school as a whole. We want Bama.