Dave Williford’s statistical critique of UO economists in the NY Times

12/22/2011: Now it’s in Time too:

Oregon parents, beware: the Ducks are 11-2 this season, and playing in the Jan. 2 Rose Bowl against the University of Wisconsin, the sixth-best party school in the nation according to Playboy (in 2010, the Badgers ranked third). For transcripts, this game might be an F-ing disaster. “Our results support the concern that big-time sports are a threat to American higher education,” the researchers  — Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen and Glen R. Waddell wrote.

12/21/2011: Getting your research talked about in the NY Times is a good thing for professors. Part of our job is to do research that interests people. Great publicity for UO’s academic side. The NYT matters in a way that a 60 second $500,000 athletic department puff piece never will. Only a few UO research papers get featured each year. Here’s the latest, from three UO economists:

In examining the grade-point averages of the Oregon student body and the performance of the Ducks’ football team, the researchers found a relationship between declining grades and success on the field.

“Our results support the concern that big-time sports are a threat to American higher education,” the paper’s authors — Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen and Glen R. Waddell — wrote. They said their work was among the first to take a look at the “nonmonetary costs” of college sports.

Male students were more likely than females to increase their alcohol consumption and celebrating and decrease studying when a team fared well, resulting in lower grade-point averages, according to the study….

Some 24 percent of male students said that the success of Oregon’s football team definitely or probably decreased the amount of time they spent studying for classes, compared with 9 percent for women. Both men and women reported that they were more likely to consume alcohol, skip class or party in the wake of a win compared with a loss.

Relative to females, “we observe a decrease in male academic time investment and an increase in distracting or risky behaviors in response to increased athletic success,” the researchers wrote.

Anyone who has ever been to a university – or just to a football game – knows this is true. But here’s the response from official Duck spokesperson and Executive Assistant Athletics Director Dave Williford, who presumably has spent a fair amount of time tailgating, if not studying, and who therefore really should get it:

David Williford, a University of Oregon spokesman, said about the study: “I would like to try and understand the factors involved to coming to that conclusion. Statistics can prove anything. But that’s my personal opinion and not necessarily the university’s.”

Followed by “Wait, will you please not print that?” Too bad they couldn’t get our NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative Jim O’Fallon to comment too. I’m guessing AD Rob Mullens hid under his desk as soon as he heard what the reporter wanted to ask him about. Williford – the $85K a year spokesperson and the low guy on the totem pole, got stuck taking the call.

We blogged about this earlier, with links to another paper showing links to football upsets and increases in spouse abuse. The OC – back on the job now that the game parties are over – discusses the former. But there’s more:

Rees and Scnepel (2009) on crime, http://jse.sagepub.com/content/10/1/68.short:

Our results suggest that the host community registers sharp increases in assaults, vandalism, arrests for disorderly conduct, and arrests for alcohol-related offenses on game
days. Upsets are associated with the largest increases in the number of expected offenses.

and Card and Dahl (2011) on family violence, which finds

Controlling for the pregame point spread and the size of the local viewing audience, we find that upset losses (defeats when the home team was predicted to win by four or more points) lead to a 10% increase in the rate of at-home violence by men against their wives
and girlfriends. … The rise in violence after an upset loss is concentrated in a narrow time window near the end of the game and is larger for more important games.

Of course on the pecuniary side we’ve got Stinson and Howard (2004) http://business.nmsu.edu/%7Emhyman/M454_Articles/%28Collegiate%29%20Stinson_SMQ_2004.pdf showing another effect of big-time sports programs:

Both alumni and non-alumni show an increasing preference toward directing their gifts to the intercollegiate athletics department-at the expense of the donations to academic programs. Sperber’s (2000) assertion that giving to athletics undermines academic giving is strongly supported.

And the official NCAA reports on this http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/97483e804e0dabfa9f32ff1ad6fc8b25/empirical_effects_of_collegiate_athletics_update.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=97483e804e0dabfa9f32ff1ad6fc8b25

Hypothesis #8: Increased operating expenditures on sports affect measurable academic quality in the medium term.

• Our statistical analysis of the updated data suggests no relationship – either positive or negative – between changes in operating expenditures on football or basketball among Division I-A schools and incoming SAT scores or the percentage of applicants accepted.
• The academic literature is divided on whether athletic programs affect academic quality. While our results suggest no statistical relationship one way or the other, our data are limited to ten years and such a relationship may exist over longer periods of time. In addition, the relationship between athletics and academic quality may manifest itself in ways other than the effect on SAT scores or other directly measurable indicators.
•  We continue to conclude that the hypothesis that changes in operating expenditures on big-time sports affect measurable academic quality in the medium term is not proven.

Hypothesis #9: Increased operating expenditures on sports affect other measurable indicators, including alumni giving.

• Econometric analysis using our updated database shows little or no robust relationship between changes in operating expenditures on football or basketball among Division I-A schools and alumni giving (either to the sports program or the university itself).
• The academic literature is again inconclusive on this issue. As with the previous hypothesis, our results suggest little or no statistical relationship – but our data are limited to ten years and such a relationship may exist over longer periods of time.
• We continue to conclude that the hypothesis that increased operating expenditures on sports affect other measurable indicators, including alumni giving, is not proven.

On the other side of the argument, of course, there’s Duck spokesperson Dave Williford, and this $500,000 video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_csyVJEzMFw&feature=player_embedded

Comments here.

Update: Dave Williford writes a nice apology – though it should come from his boss. But Rob Mullens still won’t meet with the IAC, Jim O’Fallon still won’t explain why the IAC can’t have a voice in who will pay for the NCAA settlement, Randy Geller still won’t stop redacting the Glazier invoices, and Jamie Moffitt still won’t come clean about the Kilkenny baseball loan, etc.

From: “Dave Williford”
Subject: Response from David Williford, Athletics Department, University of Oregon
Date: December 22, 2011 2:56:13 PM PST

I would like to apologize for the insensitivity of my comments to the
New York Times. I wish to assure you that I hold the academic mission of
this University to be of the highest priority and certainly did not
intend to create any perception that resulted in a compromise of the
integrity of that academic mission.

Dave Williford
Asst. AD, Media Services
Athletics Department
University of Oregon@uoregon.edu>

 

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