A little too convenient

Don't read too much into the study that showed that the grade point averages of men at the University of Oregon dropped when the football team had a great season. The result sounds suspiciously convenient.

Convenient? Yes, for shoring up the viewpoint that football gets too much money and attention at the university at the expense of scholars, including the economists who did the study.

The way the Associated Press described it, three researchers considered the grades of nearly 30,000 U of O nonathletes during fall term from 1999 through 2007. They found a gap between men and women. Women had a GPA slightly above 3, and the men slightly below. And the more often the football team won, the wider the gap became.

They surveyed students and got 24 percent of the men to say that when the team was doing well, they definitely or probably studied less and partied more. Nine percent of the women said the same.

Does that mean a successful football season detracts from learning, as the article in our paper Wednesday implied? No it does not.

Whether the GPA of thousands of students is a few tenths of a point higher or lower means nothing. It says nothing about what anybody knows.

Second, students who follow the college's football fortunes may skip classes that are not strictly required or part of their major. That might lower their grades without affecting what they learn in the courses that count.

Or, the grade gap between women and men might have risen because the avid sports fans, mostly men, talked sports and quit bothering the women for most of fall term during winning seasons, thus leaving the women far more study time.

GPAs may be important in some respects, but for most people they fade in significance once they've left college behind and have had a few years of learning and work experience in the world away from school.

Also, if winning results in lower grades, losing should raise them, right? Anybody care to study the grade point averages at OSU?

The study provoked a few headlines. But it's no reason for teams to start losing in order to try to elevate everybody's grades.

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