Flutie Effect

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Doug Flutie, the player who the phenomenon is named after

The Flutie Effect or Flutie Factor refers to the phenomenon of having a successful college sports team increase the exposure and prominence of a university. This is named after Boston College's Doug Flutie, whose successful Hail Mary pass in the 1984 game against the University of Miami clinched a win which allegedly played a large role in the increase in applications to Boston College the following year.[1][2][3]

Flutie Effect at Boston College[edit]

Writing in the Spring 2003 edition of the Boston College Magazine,[4] Bill McDonald, director of communications at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education determined that “Applications to BC did surge 16 percent in 1984 (from 12,414 to 14,398), and then another 12 percent (to 16,163) in 1985. But these jumps were not anomalous for BC, which in the previous decade had embarked on a program to build national enrollment using market research, a network of alumni volunteers, strategically allocated financial aid, and improvements to residence halls and academic facilities.” He also observed that “in 1997, one year after revelations about gambling resulted in a coach’s resignation, 13 student-athlete suspensions, an investigation by the NCAA, and hundreds of embarrassing media reports, applications for admission came in at 16,455, virtually unchanged from the previous year. Two years later, when applications jumped by a record 17 percent to 19,746, the surge followed a 4-7 year for football.” Going further back in history, he reported that applications had increased 9 percent in 1978, a year when BC football had its worst year ever, with a 0-11 record.

Mr. McDonald posed the question “How does an idea like the 'Flutie factor' become sufficiently rooted that The New York Times cites it as a given without further comment and some universities invest millions of dollars in its enchanting possibilities?” He was provided with an answer by Barbara Wallraff, author of the “Word Court” column in the Atlantic Monthly: “It’s painful to fact-check everything. Media will often reprint what has been published, especially when it appears in reputable publications. ‘Flutie factor’ is a short, alliterative way to describe something that is complicated to explain. But what makes a good term is not always the literal truth.”

Other examples[edit]

According to a 2009 study, applications to a university that had its men's basketball team play in the first round of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament rose by an average of 1% the following year. Teams with greater success saw larger rises; tournament winners typically saw applications increase by 7 to 8%. As most schools did not raise enrollment after participating in the tournament, the greater number of applications caused them to be more selective in their admissions.[5]

George Mason[edit]

Another school alleged to have experienced the "Flutie Effect" was George Mason University, following their 2005–06 basketball team's advancement to the "Final Four" of the 2006 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament as an 11th seed.[6]

Appalachian State[edit]

Armanti Edwards

ASU had a "Flutie Effect" after winning multiple Division I FCS championships and upsetting Michigan with Armanti Edwards as their quarterback. Five years after the Michigan game, CBSSports.com writer Dennis Dodd claimed that it was "tied directly to a 17 percent increase in applicants, a 24 percent boost in attendance and a 73 percent rise in licensing royalties."[7]

Boise State[edit]

Boise State University experienced an effect similar to the "Flutie Effect" after their 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The game capped an undefeated season and a top-5 finish by Boise State, a team not considered to be a traditional football power. Online inquiries about the school increased 135 percent, and graduate school application inquiries increased tenfold. Boise State also enrolled over 19,000 students the next fall, an all-time high.[8]

Northern Iowa[edit]

Another school that was reported to have experienced a similar "Flutie Effect" as a result of a basketball accomplishment was the University of Northern Iowa. In the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Panthers sprung an upset of top-ranked Kansas. The game and the national exposure that went with it led to massive increases in donations, website traffic, and e-commerce for the athletic department, and a 30 percent increase in calls to UNI's admissions office on the Monday after the upset.[9]


Butler coach Brad Stevens.

Two studies estimated that television, print, and online news coverage of Butler University's men's basketball team's 2010 and 2011 appearances in the NCAA tournament championship game resulted in additional publicity for the university worth about $1.2 billion. In an example of the "Flutie Effect", applications rose by 41% after the 2010 appearance.[5]


There was a "dramatic increase" in the number of applications to Auburn University after its football team, led by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, won the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.[10]

Florida Gulf Coast[edit]

Yet another "Flutie Effect" from men's basketball was experienced by Florida Gulf Coast University following the Eagles' Sweet Sixteen run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. During that run, sales of men's basketball-related merchandise increased more than 20-fold over the previous year, and in 2014 the total number of applications to the school increased by 36% over 2013, and out-of-state applications increased 41%[11]


  1. ^ Economist blog article on Flutie effect
  2. ^ LA Times article on Flutie effect
  3. ^ Westword article
  4. ^ BC article on effect
  5. ^ a b Dosh, Kristi (March 2012). "Tournament pays handsomely for schools". ESPN. Retrieved March 30, 2012. 
  6. ^ 'Flutie Effect' study shows success on fields and courts really does mean more applications - Yahoo! Sports
  7. ^ Dodd, Dennis (August 22, 2012). "Five years ago, App State changed it all, but what's really new today?". CBSSports.com. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  8. ^ Croxford, David (January 2008). "The Colt Effect". Hawaii Business. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  9. ^ O'Neil, Dana (August 4, 2010). "Northern Iowa: The Shot and The Effect". ESPN.com. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Auburn sees surge in applications after national championship". AL.com. March 2011. 
  11. ^ Conn, Jordan Ritter (February 19, 2014). "Life After Dunk City". Grantland. Retrieved November 9, 2015. 

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