The economics of university sponsored sports

By Delaney Fox, Staff Writer

The Center for Political and Economic Thought sponsored a talk from Dr. Jane E. Ruseski on Mar. 22. The lecture, titled Exploring the Role of University Sponsored Sport on Health and Well-being: An Economic Perspective, was held in the Fred Rogers Center at 7:30 p.m.

(Credit: Delaney Fox), Dr. Jane E. Ruseski delivered a talk sponsored by the Center for Political and Economic Thought.

Ruseski, professor of economics at West Virginia University, presented compiled studies of the various effects of university sponsored sports on students, the university and the surrounding community.

Ruseski explained that well-being is at the core of many economic analyses, as people tend to make choices that maximize utility or satisfaction, and that there are a variety of channels by which university sponsored sports can influence well-being.

According to studies summarized by Ruseski, for students, participation in university sponsored sports can improve well-being through the creation of social networks, capital and identity, the general promotion of happiness, physical and mental health and labor market outcomes. However, university sponsored sports can also potentially lead to negative effects through increased risky behaviors.

Studies specifically on risky behavior showed that sports were linked with higher gambling rates and increased drinking on game days. Ruseski also cited higher alcohol-related arrests, specifically for football game days as compared to alcohol-related arrests on holidays.

(Credit: Delaney Fox), Dr. Ruseski employed slides with graphs and certain statistics throughout her talk.

Ruseski also presented studies which demonstrated that, for the university, sponsored sports can positively influence well-being through improvements in school status, increased donations, state appropriations and increased applications. Generally, sport success was positively associated with donations.

Sponsored sports also impact communities in proximity with universities. While there is a positive impact on community identity, there is also a negative impact through increased crime surrounding sponsored sports events.

According to a 2009 study that Ruseski consulted, local communities saw a statistically significant increase in assaults, vandalism, DUIs, disorderly conduct and liquor law violations during home games.

Ruseski concluded that economics suggests a way to evaluate significant impacts of various life events on happiness and well-being. University sponsored sports can affect health and well-being in many potential ways, and they occur at different levels: individual, university and community at large.

Ruseski’s talk was the final stand-alone lecture organized by the Center for Political and Economic Thought for the semester. On Apr. 8 and 9, the Center will host the 2022 Culture and Policy Conference, titled Politics, Policy, and Panic: Governing in Times of Crisis.

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