COLUMBIA — The contagious excitement on campus after the Tiger’s ascent to No. 1 has high school students all over the country clamoring to join in the fun.
A senior MU admissions official said the football team’s success is one of the major factors contributing to a 20 percent increase in applications to MU to date. So far, there are 1,398 more applications than last year at this time.
“There is no doubt that success of the football program has gotten us national exposure,” said Chuck May, senior associate director of admissions.
The influx includes a 27 percent increase in out-of-state applicants and a 16 percent increase in in-state applicants.
Campus visitors have increased, May said, as have the number of phone calls in the admissions office.
May also attributes the large amount of applicants to more intensive recruiting efforts and direct mailings and e-mails. He said the influx of applications could also be students who were planning to apply later in the year but who applied early in excitement over the media exposure.
Although applications have increased steadily in Missouri in the last few years due to what May said is an increase in high school graduates, he is confident that the application increase is too large for it to be due to just high school graduation rates and recruiting and mailing efforts.
“Certainly, the success of our athletic program has helped increase the number of applications,” May said.
This increase in applications is not uncommon: it is often seen when a school experiences sudden football or basketball success.
At Rutgers University in New Jersey, football success, ongoing media coverage and strong academics were contributing factors to an increase in admissions and campus visits.
After the Rutgers football team rose out of obscurity and attained an 11-2 record in the 2006-2007 season, the university has seen a 65 percent increase in summer visits and a 70 percent increase in fall visits of incoming freshmen.
However, most residual effects are not seen until a year after the successful season, said Courtney McAnuff, vice president of enrollment management at Rutgers.
In 2007, enrollment at Rutgers increased 4 percent. The number of applications for fall 2008 has already increased 15 percent compared to last year, McAnuff said.
“The students are caught up in the excitement of the moment,” McAnuff said. “If your name gets repeated seven or eight times a day, you are going to get recognition.”
McAnuff said the increase in applications allows the university to become more selective in their admittance. It also helps with recruitment and increases retention numbers of students.
Chad McEvoy, assistant professor of sports management at Illinois State University, cites the “Flutie Factor” as a reason for the increase of admissions applicants on the heels of successful football and basketball seasons.
When Doug Flutie won the Heisman in 1984, Boston College experienced a 20 to 25 percent increase in applicants the next year and earned the small private school a great deal of notoriety and revenue.
Gonzaga University’s emergence in basketball in the last decade and George Mason University’s miraculous run to the 2006 Final Four also garnered these schools increased application numbers.
McEvoy conducted a study to prove this trend in which he researched Heisman finalists from the years 1988 to 2003. His study included 68 schools.
“When a school had a Heisman finalist, the next year their admissions went up 6.5 percent,” McEvoy said. “Other studies have seen an increase of 5 percent to 8 percent a year after athletic success.”
McEvoy believes the increase is due to an advertising effect.
“It’s a way for an institution to advertise itself,” McEvoy said. “It’s a seemingly effective one, too.”
Lesser known schools with less athletic prestige will receive a greater advertising effect than the traditional powerhouses such as Texas, USC or Ohio State, McEvoy said.