We Beat FSU: Digital Business Implications

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

10 comments

  1. mgiovanniello · ·

    Interesting topic, and what an awesome game! I didn’t think about the win this way besides it being a huge confidence boost for our football team after the past two ACC wins in a row. The 30% increase in applications in the two years after the Doug Floutie game is a shocking stat (by the way, the link doesn’t seem to work). Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hilary_Gould · ·

    Such a fun game! It is amazing how success like this, especially on a national stage such as ESPN, changes the brand of BC. As a tour guide here, I make a lot of jokes about how we don’t win a lot, but our tailgates are still fun or about how the USC game was the “best day of my life”. My dad was watching the game on TV and texting me updates (even though I was there and watching he felt the need). He kept talking about how much fun it looked and how the announcers were praising the school and the “turnaround” of the football program. Pair that with huge accounts like Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated tweeting about the upset and the win all of the sudden is big news. After making national news a few years ago for losing a record number of ACC basketball and football games, it’s nice to see the school’s athletic department having some success that ultimately may help the university as a whole! (side note this is my favorite tweet from the night: https://twitter.com/ESPNCFB/status/924115085454397440 …gotta love a Jesuit university storming the field)

  3. whitmcdonald2 · ·

    Brian, Awesome post! Is there anyway we can show this to someone high up * cough cough * about investing in athletics is investing in academics? I can tell you first hand about the impact that the Flutie Effect had on my college picking experience. My family is a major supporter of the Oklahoma Sooners and deciding between BC football and Baker Mayfield and Bob Stoops was a really, really tough decision!

    Hope BC can keep it up and BC keeps capitalizing on the good tweets. Let’s just hope we don’t get to a Bowl/National Stage and choke on field goals again cause no one wants to go to a school if we can’t make the d*** field goal!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. andrewmanginelli · ·

    No doubt that the Flutie effect exists in college sports, but I would argue against this being a big win. Although FSU was ranked top #3 preseason, the loss of their starting quarterback opening day set them back. Coming into the game against BC, they were 2-4. I think this game was more about how the FSU players have given up on their coaches more than it was a defining moment in BC football. In my opinion, this will bring more of a negative impact on FSU than it will a positive on BC (they will lose recruits and thus national attention).

  5. chloeshepard18 · ·

    Great post Brian! Boston College is a relatively small school and I’ve always wondered how students from far away found the school. After reading this it seems as if their athletics could be a possible reason. I never thought about how media coverage on Boston College athletics would benefit the school as a whole so much but now I definitely agree with you. Let’s hope BC can keep drawing this good attention!!!

  6. clairemmarvin · ·

    It was such a great game; I am so happy I decided to stay for the whole thing despite the colder weather! Yes I have experienced this myself, my parents went to USC and UCLA respectively, which are both sports powerhouses, and I would argue that their increased sports successes since my parents went there in the 80’s have made their admissions processes more selective than ever. BC is in a bit of a tough spot however because BC wants to retain academic excellence among its sports teams and has a much higher GPA cutoff for student athletes coming out of high school than other schools. This is great for BC’s academic reputation, but bars some exceptional athletes from applying and therefore our sports team miss out on key talent. It is funny to think that BC might have to loosen its GPA requirements for athletes in order to attract more non-athletes with higher GPAs and test scores than we have currently. Regardless, I hope our football team continues to win games and put our awesome school on the map!

  7. ojeagle121 · ·

    Really interesting post. I went to Appalachian State and we saw the same application bump after we beat No. 5 Michigan (don’t look up what year that was). This was pre-mass-social media so it was based really just on ESPN, internet, and newspaper coverage. I can only imagine what it would have been like if Twitter was as big as it is now. I’m glad BC is embracing social media as much as they are.

  8. rjacques62 · ·

    Interesting post! I think sports really have a big impact on applications to a school; for me personally, the first time I had heard of Boston College was when they would play UCONN in basketball back in the Big East days. What did you think about the Twitter reaction to storming the field? BC was criticized for storming the field after beating a sub-.500 team and for the orderly way in which we were doing it.

  9. I was pretty stunned at the win myself.

  10. paulandresonbc · ·

    Great post Brian. I was so shocked with the win myself that I didn’t bother to look any further at the implications behind it. Nice to see the way technology played such an instrumental role in it for us. Go eagles

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