Winning teams are in the news, both on a local and national level (Frank 2004). This then serves as an unprecedented spotlight for national advertising. In 1984, Boston College saw a 12% increase in applications after winning the Orange Bowl (Frank 2004). This win was not any average win. It was an extremely close and exciting game that ending with a miracle passes from Doug Flutie that finished off the game. This excitement and the subsequent media coverage of the game afterwards created a firestorm that provided Boston college with free national advertising. This advertising serves not only to generate more students, but also as a way to increase alumni donations. When a school's name is present in daily or weekly national media, the alumni are constantly reminded of their school and the success it is attaining in the field of athletics. This reminder serves as a powerful marketing tool for schools across the nation who already struggle in reaching out to alumni for charitable donations.
A strong athletic program, in many cases, needs deep pockets on the behalf of the university. Providing the funding needed for successful athletic programs is a daunting task. According to research, recent athletic budgets for big name schools have increased dramatically within recent years. The University of Michigan reported in its 2003-2004 season for spending $50 million dollars on its athletics (Frank 2004). This is a huge increase when comparing spending on athletics in past generations. Yet, many schools see this influx in spending as an investment strategy based on the research showing increasing student applications as well as increased alumni donations.
Where does all that money come from? Much of this funding comes from student fees and payments, which can range from $50 to $1,000 a year (Frank 2004). Thus, the students bear most of the burden to provide the necessary funding for successful athletic programs. However, there are opportunities to use increased alumni donations as a valuable resource for other academic activities. When a school wins a title, alumni donations tend to go up. Those increased funds can then be re-directed to both improving the athletic departments as a future investment strategy, as well as funneled into other areas of the university's academic departments. This then enriches student life at the university in general. Increasing available budgets for athletics through alumni donations can provide much needed funding for strong athletic programs without burdening the students. Research shows that "many alumni donations are embarked specifically for college athletic programs, there is no doubt that many alumni feel strongly about these programs," (Frank 2004:12). Constant media presence and national recognition can also influence alumni to donate more and more often. Alumni donations also tend to increase when the university's name is better known or present within recent media facets (Medema 2008). In fact, "One study analyzed the recipients' role in creating social pressure on prospective donors in connection with athletic fund raising," (Harrison et al. 1995:1). Heavy spending on athletic programs can pay off in the form of increased alumni donations. Successful athletic programs also tend to lure in more alumni donations annually. Much research has shown that "Athletic success has an immediate impact on alumni generosity," (Proto 2003:73). This seems to be a finding that has appeared in a number of studies conducted over the years on the impact of sports within alumni donations. Within the context of one study, "for any college in the sample, alumni contributions per student increased by 7.3% when the football team won a bowl game but declined 13.6% if the NCAA placed the men's basketball team on probation," (Porto 2003:73). Overall, successful sports teams have positive impacts on alumni donations (Larimore 2007:1).
With these findings, college administrations can then formulate strategic plans for the future development of successful athletic programs as an investment in campus future. Spending initially up front on athletics can increase both potential student applications as well as alumni giving. It is important then to re-invest part of these donations into continuing the success of athletic departments.
Frank, Robert H. (2004). Challenging the myth. Knight Foundation. Retrieved 23 Oct 2009 at http://www.knightfoundation.org/dotAsset/131763.pdf
Medema, Samantha. (1008). Alumni donations increase. The Retriever Weekly. Retrieved 24 Oct 2009 at http://www.retrieverweekly.com/?module=displaystory&story_id=3937&edition_id=106&format=html
Larimore, David. (2007). Non-economic societal impacts of intercollegiate athletics. The Sports Journal. Retrieved 24 Oct 2009 at http://www.thesportjournal.org/article/non-economic-societal-impacts-intercollegiate-athletics…