Getting the Cal State Fullerton Football Team back on the field in any capacity will be a long and bumpy road. One of the main obstacles to fielding a team again is obviously funding. Many might argue that we should focus our limited resources on our existing basketball program instead of trying to resurrect a dormant football team. Although I would agree our basketball team could use more support, research shows that fielding a football team increases alumni donations and student applications. If this is true, could bringing back Titan Football increase alumni donations and increase revenue across all sections of the University?
Back in November, the online petition encouraging support for the reinstatement of the Titan Football Program was started. The petition received over 1,200 signatures prior to the intended cut off date. More signatures trickle in to this day. Many of those that signed the petition offered comments of encouragement. In looking back at the petition, here are a few choice comments that stood out…
- Kevin Clune – “BRING IT BACK! I won’t give money to the university until you do.”
- Whitfield Haydon – “Will donate to football program.”
- Jeremy Burke – “Not donating any money until we bring this back!”
- Greg White – “Probably the only way I’d give to CSUF.”
- Channing Franco – “If I could, I would give all the money in my bank account to fund this team.”
Pretty strong words from just a few that electronically signed the petition. With that said, it is safe to assume that there are probably many others out there that feel the same way. The point here is that when alumni feel a sense of pride, community, and connection to their alma mater, they tend to donate. This is known as the “Flutie Factor” or the “Flutie Effect.” This term is named after the former quarterback from Boston College, Doug Flutie. Flutie’s successful Hail Mary pass in the 1984 game against the University of Miami clinched the win. Many argue that win played a large role in the increase in applications and alumni donations to Boston College the following year.
Some might argue that having a successful men’s college basketball program would have the same “Flutie Effect” on student applications and alumni donations. With that logic, why wouldn’t we just focus on improving the existing Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball team rather than resurrecting the defunct Titan Football program? Can the same argument of the “Flutie Factor” be applied to George Mason University? You may recall George Mason’s basketball team advanced to the Final Four of the 2006 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament as an 11th seed. Didn’t George Mason receive a flood of new student applications and alumni donations? Irvin B. Tucker would argue the answer is no.
Irvin B. Tucker, a professor in the Department of Economics, Belk College of Business Administration at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, examined the effects of football and basketball success on graduation rates and alumni giving rates. In his thesis, he determined that:
Using a sample of big-time sports universities and models comparable to other research, the evidence presented in this article indicates that having a highly successful football team has a positive impact on both the overall graduation rate and the alumni giving rate. In contrast, a successful basketball team has no significant effect on either of these key measures of academic success.
In addition to Tucker’s research, two other professors found that a winning football team will produce increased enrollment applications. Robert G. Murphy of the Department of Economics at Boston College and Gregory A. Trandel of the Department of Economics at the University of Georgia found that…
the winning record of a university’s football team is positively (and statistically significantly) related to the number of applications for admittance received by that university. Our parameter estimates indicate that an increase in winning percentage by 0.250 (from 0.500 to 0.750, for example) tends to produce a 1.3% increase in applicants in the following year.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that increased student applications translates into more revenue for the university across the board. It would stand to reason these applicants would be more actively involved in campus life if athletic success is a motivating factor to apply. More than likely these students would be active in other aspects of student life as well. An active and engaged student body would help shed that image of Cal State Fullerton being “just a commuter school.”
When factoring all the pros and cons of bringing back Titan Football, the potential for increased alumni donations and a spike in student applications should be considered and taken into account.