Georgia likely to see ‘Flutie Effect’ after championship

UGA football coach Kirby Smart, speaks to the crowd of Bulldogs fans Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, at Sanford Stadium. Thousands turned out to cheer the University of Georgia football team for their National Championship victory. Many colleges and universities see admissions and enrollment increases after winning a championship in basketball or football. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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UGA football coach Kirby Smart, speaks to the crowd of Bulldogs fans Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, at Sanford Stadium. Thousands turned out to cheer the University of Georgia football team for their National Championship victory. Many colleges and universities see admissions and enrollment increases after winning a championship in basketball or football. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Editor’s Note: Georgia’s first national championship in 41 years will have an impact more far-reaching than the football program. In Sports, this is the fifth in a series of stories examining how the title will impact fans, admissions, recruiting and politics.

There are many benefits to being college football’s top dawg.

ExplorePart 1: What championship means to fans: ‘Relief, euphoria, thankfulness’

The University of Georgia may see the impact of its recent national championship in two key areas: student applications and enrollment.

Several schools say they’ve seen increases in both categories after hoisting the championship trophy in football or basketball.

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A Georgia Bulldog fan takes a selfie with quarterback Stetson Bennet as the team arrived during the victory parade in downtown Athens on Sat,, Jan, 15, 2022. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A Georgia Bulldog fan takes a selfie with quarterback Stetson Bennet as the team arrived during the victory parade in downtown Athens on Sat,, Jan, 15, 2022. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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A Georgia Bulldog fan takes a selfie with quarterback Stetson Bennet as the team arrived during the victory parade in downtown Athens on Sat,, Jan, 15, 2022. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Eight of the last 10 College Football Playoff and men’s Division I college basketball champions had enrollment increases shortly after winning the title, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of enrollment records showed.

ExplorePart 2: National title will drive Georgia’s athletics revenue train

Undergraduate applications to LSU rose from 28,960 in 2020, the year the Tigers won the CFP title, to 36,561 this fall, by far the largest increase in the last decade. The number of applications from women to the University of Connecticut, which has won five Division I women’s basketball championships since 2010, nearly doubled between 2010 and 2020.

Villanova University, located near Philadelphia, said applications skyrocketed 22% for the incoming fall 2017 class after winning the men’s basketball title the prior season.

At the University of Alabama, which has dominated college football during the last decade, enrollment increased in three of four recent seasons after winning the championship. Matt McLendon, the university’s associate vice president for enrollment management, said he’s often asked if its football success has resulted in greater interest. Applications, he said, have increased in the last five to seven years.

ExplorePart 3: Belief makes Georgia Bulldogs a threat to win it all again

“The very short answer is it never hurts,” he said. “It certainly helps with your publicity. It helps gets the name out there all over the country.”

McLendon, though, says the university’s scholarship offerings and its academics is as important in drawing prospective students.

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Doug Flutie celebrates after his "Hail Mary" pass is caught for the game-winning touchdown for Boston College against the Miami Hurricanes in 1984. Boston College saw an enrollment surge afterwards, which some call "the Flutie effect." PHOTO CREDIT: MIAMI HERALD.

Credit: Photo Contributed

Doug Flutie celebrates after his "Hail Mary" pass is caught for the game-winning touchdown for Boston College against the Miami Hurricanes in 1984. Boston College saw an enrollment surge afterwards, which some call "the Flutie effect." PHOTO CREDIT: MIAMI HERALD.

Credit: Photo Contributed

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Doug Flutie celebrates after his "Hail Mary" pass is caught for the game-winning touchdown for Boston College against the Miami Hurricanes in 1984. Boston College saw an enrollment surge afterwards, which some call "the Flutie effect." PHOTO CREDIT: MIAMI HERALD.

Credit: Photo Contributed

Credit: Photo Contributed

One phrase that has caught on to explain the impact from such exposure is “the Flutie Effect.” Applications to Boston College surged after quarterback Doug Flutie hurled a successful “Hail Mary” pass to beat Miami in 1984, one of the most memorable plays in college football history.

Researchers have studied whether there’s a positive effect and the findings are mixed. One paper found enrollment increases at colleges that won a championship are less than other schools. Also, applications to some colleges have soared in recent years because students can apply to more schools through the Common App.

Georgia admissions officials said it’s too early to discuss the potential impact. New Year’s Day was the deadline for most students hoping to enroll at UGA this fall.

ExplorePart 4: National champion Bulldogs more powerful on recruiting trail

For now, UGA officials said they’ve seen a rush for Georgia gear. In the first seven days following the game, the UGA bookstore sold more than $1 million worth of branded apparel and gifts, a record.

It has gotten tougher to get into the University of Georgia in recent years. The acceptance rate fell below 50% for the first time in recent memory in 2018, and has remained so each subsequent year. UGA saw a record pool of about 21,500 early admissions applicants who hoped to get accepted for the fall 2022 semester. The university accepted about 41% of those applications.

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Students considering enrolling at the University of Georgia tour a building on the Athens campus. PHOTO CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA.

Credit: Photo Contributed

Students considering enrolling at the University of Georgia tour a building on the Athens campus. PHOTO CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA.

Credit: Photo Contributed

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Students considering enrolling at the University of Georgia tour a building on the Athens campus. PHOTO CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA.

Credit: Photo Contributed

Credit: Photo Contributed

The last time UGA won the football championship, the 1980 season, undergraduate enrollment increased by about 12%. George Weske was drawn to Athens in large part by football and still speaks fondly of his UGA experience.

Weske grew up in Syracuse, N.Y. and wanted to attend a school with big-time sports programs.

“It definitely factored into me going there,” Weske said of the Dawgs.

ExploreThe drought is over: Georgia is national champion again

Weske’s youngest child, Anna Claire, is a high school junior. She’s looking closely at several SEC universities. The two visited Athens for a tour last fall.

“I certainly want her to pick the school she wants to go to, but if she did choose Georgia, I would be beyond excited,” said Weske, 58, who lives in Memphis.

Weske said one plus of Anna Claire potentially attending UGA is his football rivalry with another daughter, who is a student at Alabama.

“It would even out the scales a little,” he said.

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