Intercollegiate athletics and college rankings : an analysis of the relationship between athletic success and the U.S. news & world report college rankings

Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Robert Wolff

Third Advisor's Name

Janice Sandiford

Fourth Advisor's Name

Glenda Musoba

Date of Defense



The purpose of this study was to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between athletic success of football and men’s basketball and the U.S News and World Report (USNWR) college rankings. There has been consistent debate among researchers who study institutional quality about whether intercollegiate athletics enhances reputation. This study is similar to other studies attempting to measure the relationship between athletic success and possible indirect benefits to the university from athletics, such as increased admissions applications and increased alumni donations and giving.

This study offered a more nuanced model for measuring athletic success, a concept that has been difficult to measure quantitatively. The method used here also measured change over time (in this case, from year-to-year over an eleven year period). The research questions for this study were (a) is there a correlation between athletic success and the USNWR college ranking; and (b) is there a correlation in the change from year-to-year in athletic success with the change from year-to-year in the USNWR college rankings? Spearman Rho correlation and ANOVA tests were used to answer these research questions.

The results from the statistical tests demonstrated little correlation between athletic success, whether in football or men’s basketball, with the USNWR college rankings. Although the relationships were weak, men’s basketball success consistently demonstrated a stronger relationship than football success. This finding differed from what is most often found in the literature, which often favors football success. The ANOVA test results did reveal some results that suggest athletic participation is a factor in the USNWR college rankings.

As the debate continues about whether intercollegiate athletics enhances reputation, and as colleges and universities continue spending enormously on athletics, a keener understanding about the possible indirect benefits to the university from athletic programs is needed. The “advertising” provided by spectator sports such as football and men’s basketball is often assumed by university leaders to present substantial indirect benefits for the university. However, the existing research along with this study provides little evidence of such opportunities.



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