AP Howler: A Successful College Football Team Lowers Male Students' Grades Campuswide

I hope that the nominations for dumbest wire service item of the year are still open, because the December 20 report by Associated Press Education Writer Jay Pope on the alleged negative impact of a successful college football team on the grades of male students on campus must be placed in the running.

Based on an eight-year study of grades by economists at just one school, the University of Oregon, who are either getting grant money they don't deserve or have totally run out of productive things to do, a three-win improvement by a football team can increase the differential between male and female students' grade-point averages by as much as 0.0144 points. Seriously. Pope never disclosed the degree of difference I just cited, and wasted almost 900 words on a story which should never have been written. What follows is some of the AP writer's vapid verbiage:


Study: When a football team wins, male grades drop

On campus, a successful football team is a cause for celebration.

So much celebration, in fact, that three economists have found a link between a winning season at one big-time football program and lower grades for male students.

In a new paper, the economists at the University of Oregon chart the grade point averages of students there alongside the fortunes of the football team between 1999 and 2007. Their findings could give ammo to critics of big-time college sports.

Their conclusion: When the Ducks were winning, students celebrated more and grades suffered. And that doesn't bode well for upcoming report cards - the Ducks are 11-2 this season, Pac-12 champions for the third straight year, and headed to the Rose Bowl.

... Women's grades held up better than men's when the team was doing well - and the drop in men's grades compounded a GPA gender gap that was already present at Oregon, as it is on many campuses.

... On average, men were earning GPAs of 2.94, compared to 3.12 for women. But the more the team won, the more the gap widened; three extra wins amounted to an approximately 8 percent increase in the difference.

Seriously, Jay, if you would have dusted off your calculator for a few seconds, you would have realized how infinitesimal the supposed effect of a successful football season is:

  • The average male-female differential is 0.18 points.
  • Three extra wins widens that difference by 8% to 0.1944 points (0.18 x 1.08).
  • That means the average male GPA dropped from 2.94 to 2.9256. That's the equivalent of 14 out of every 1,000 male students getting a "C" instead of a B in one course during each fall quarter or semester. Oh the humanity!

All kinds of other influences, including runs of bad or good weather on campus perhaps moving some students to study out of sheer boredom, could easily be as important or more important than how the football team happens to be performing.

The caption at the photo accompanying the story reads in part: "When the college football team was racking up wins on the field, the men in classrooms partied so hard their grades took a dive." Words fail.

Instead of showing that "Their findings could give ammo to critics of big-time college sports," as Pope claims, what they instead show is that a certain Associated Press writer needs to go back to school to learn something about statistical significance, so that he (and his editors) won't be deceived by a bunch of academics attempting to push utter garbage on the public.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.