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'Saban Effect' contributes to university growth

Jackson Poe

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Many people are familiar with the “Flutie Effect:” the phenomenon of having a successful college sports team, specifically a football or basketball team, leading to increased exposure for the university and in turn higher revenues, enrollment and overall growth.

The phenomenon is named after Doug Flutie, a quarterback for Boston College whose famous Hail Mary pass in a 1984 game led to a huge win in Miami. A surge in applications hit Boston College the 
next year.

Although the effect is widely referenced and recognized, its legitimacy has been questioned. The increase in applications to Boston College coincided with a push from alumni and administration to build a bigger national enrollment along with new residence halls and upgraded facilities. The increased enrollment numbers for Flutie Effects around the country seem to disappear after a few years. There are strong statistics that show increased athletic success has correlation with university growth, but many are skeptical it is the result of direct causation, and the same questions are valid concerning Alabama.

There are many factors to consider concerning a university. For one, Alabama is not the most desirable state to live in by any means. Many in-state students leave the state after graduation and few out-of-state students stay in the state after graduation for employment. The state of Alabama does not have the same resources as other states, but students are leaving their home states in record numbers to come to Alabama. Enrollment is increasing while admission rates are declining. As everyone knows, The University of Alabama is expanding faster than anyone expected, and it is taking serious measures just to keep up.

This is where the term “Saban Effect” comes into play. The Flutie Effect may be a short-lived phenomenon when a college sports team has success in a year and boosts academic interests the next. The Saban Effect is the consistent growth of a university over a span in which a sports dynasty is built.

The Saban Effect is a much bigger and consistent Flutie Effect and it is happening on our campus right now. The numbers point to increased enrollment data since Coach Saban took over the football program, but the numbers do not tell the whole story. Looking around and seeing the growth of the university tells the story. There are more students on campus, more out-of-state students, new facilities and 
constant construction.

Even in the middle of a huge economic recession and decreasing numbers of college applicants in the country, the University is thriving. The full Saban Effect may not be able to be studied and recognized as such until years later, but the results are all around us. The University is booming and the city of Tuscaloosa is booming. The University has become nationally relevant in a state that is not very populated or popular. The Saban Effect is not a result of correlation. It has direct causation. Years from now when there is more information and a comprehensive study can be done, experts will be calling it the Saban Effect.

With all that said, the growth and exposure of the University should not be solely attributed to Saban, as there are many other factors and valuable people involved. But, most everyone would agree the University would not be nearly where it is today if it was not for the recent success of the football 
program under Nick Saban.

Jackson Poe is a junior study ing accounting. His column runs biweekly.

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'Saban Effect' contributes to university growth