Friday, October 26, 2007

Will Boston College Experience a Matt Ryan Effect?

While most fans of Red Sox Nation were probably watching Hideki Okajima retire all seven batters he faced, the Boston College football team (ranked #2 nationally) were eeking out a 14-10 come-from-behind victory over Virginia Tech (ranked #8) on ESPN under the leadership of BC quarterback Matt Ryan.

The stunning football victory has reminded many a fan of Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass in 1984 giving BC a 47-45 victory over Miami.

Urban legend is that BC experienced an upsurge in admission applications in the following spring, which is now referred to as the "Flutie Effect".  Sports directors across the country use the term to justify university financial support for the big sports teams under the expectation that a winning team will lead to many more student applications -- and the feeling that their school is more desirable to attend.

Not all people believe the Flutie Effect actually occurred.  BC Magazine in 2003 published a story about how the media, without apparent factual basis, have reported increases in the number of applications by 25, 33, or 40%; in reality, applications went up 16% in 1984 and another 12% in 1985, which combine to a 30% increase over two years.  John Maguire instead argues that these increases were more due to other, ongoing processes at the school, and that the Hail Mary pass just added a modest number of applications on top of the already increasing admissions rate.  He notes how applications went up 13-15% for a number of years in the 1970s, including an increase of 9% in 1978 despite the football team's 0-11 record.

Now that current BC quarterback Matt Ryan has his own dramatic, game-winning pass with eleven seconds to go, will BC experience a revisited Flutie Effect -- the Matt Ryan Effect?  Hard to say, since BC's major sports teams (football, basketball, hockey) have all been having very successful seasons lately, so it may be difficult to pin any increase down on a single sports team.  (Women's Soccer Effect anyone?)  BC received 22,451 applications in 2004, 23,823 in 2005, and 26,584 in 2006 -- that's a 11.5% increase in the last year alone, and a 6.1% increase in the previous year.


BrightonResident said...

With all the media attention on all the terrific pro teams, poor BC is not getting any limelight they so deserve.

When I took an out of town Big Ten alum to visit the BC campus, he was amazed by how such a "small" school can be such a sports power house year after year. Come to think of it, so am I.

Michael Pahre said...

As for the size of BC: this is an old city. Virtually all the colleges/universities within the city limits have sizes comparatively small relative to those in markets like the south, west, midwest, etc. I'm therefore not surprised by the Big Ten alum's comment.

Concerning the "limelight" comment, I have actually seen quite a large number of stories about BC football, in particular, in the Boston Globe since July. A lot! Every day or two it seems like another story. If sparse coverage was something to complain about in the past, I think the local papers have gotten over that.

Now if we can only get them to cover the elections in town...

BrightonResident said...

Agreed that the size of our local colleges pale by comparison to the Big Ten, etc. That's not what impressed my friend.

But among our colleges, BC stands out in many major sports, consistently through the years. When I think of the number of BC grads continuing on to NFL/NHL, etc., I don't know of another local college that can even come close.

Now that's the amazing part. What's BC's magic?

Globe does cover BC quite well. But the local TV sports could only squeeze in a single sentence or two about the Virginia Tech game, and none showed any clips.