Does a winning college football team make you dumber?

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide shouts at Alex Watkins #91 during the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After its crushing win last night in the BCS Championship game, the University of Alabama is the No. 1 college football team in the country. But while the Crimson Tide is celebrating, here is something sobering to ponder:

Is all that winning making the student body at the University of Alabama dumber?

The odds are that Alabama's winning record is indeed hurting the academic progress of some of it students -- and especially the guys.

Disturbing football study

That's the conclusion that you can draw from a fascinating new study released during the college bowl season by economists at the University of Oregon, which has its own winning football team. The study concluded that male students, in particular, are prone to drinking and partying more while studying less during fall semesters when their football team has a winning record.

The researchers looked specifically at the University of Oregon's football program and whether there were any links between the team's winning percentages and the grade point averages of its student body. When the Oregon Ducks enjoyed a winning year, the grades of male students declined significantly in the fall semester compared to women's GPAs. The greater the football team's success, the wider the gender gap in academic performance.

Football and partying

The economists examined Oregon undergraduate transcripts of close to 28,000 non-athletes from 1999 through 2007. During that period, the Oregon Ducks had an average winning percentage 68%. The economists also conducted interviews with students, who attended school during this period of time, and discovered that 24% of male students said Oregon football wins definitely or probably decreased their study time compared with nine percent of women. Forty seven percent of men said they partied more when the football team was winning versus 28% for women.

Glen R. Waddell, one of the Oregon researchers, was quoted as saying that the results confirmed what professors witness themselves during football season. "I teach these students and I know that on Thursdays there's this subtle distraction in the classroom, and the game isn't even until Saturday."

Is football a threat to academics?

"Our results support the concern that big-time sports are a threat to American higher education," the authors wrote, who noted that "this research could be used as one of the first steps toward documenting the non-monetary costs of college football".

I wonder what the students down in Alabama think of that? Or maybe some of them are too hung over from partying last night to respond.

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