MISSOULA -- College football games mean more rape reports, according to a study released last month.
The research on larger NCAA Division I (FBS) schools found "significant and robust evidence" that football game days, when people drink heavily, increase rape reports by 28 percent among 17- to 24-year-old women.
"We recognize that college football games are but one component of a college culture that contributes to excessive partying," according to the study, published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The University of Montana was not included in the study, titled "College Party Culture and Sexual Assault." An introductory paragraph notes the study is a "working paper" not yet reviewed by the bureau board or peers.
However, one of the study researchers said the paper shows a causal effect between college football games and increases in rape reports. In the past, said Isaac Swensen, studies have documented only associations between partying and sexual assault.
"Our results demonstrate that events that intensify partying increase reports of rape," said Swensen, one of three authors of the paper and a researcher at Montana State University in Bozeman.
The results focused on larger Division I schools, where partying is more intense, Swensen said. UM and MSU are not part of that tier, and he said the researchers did not find "a persistent effect" among lower-tier schools.
UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam said the related events could just as easily be parties on Halloween or New Year's Eve as any sporting event. He said partying, not football, is the root cause of the problem.
"The core issue here is underage drinking and alcohol consumption," Haslam said.
More than a decade ago, UM was named a top "party college" by the Princeton Review, but it dropped off the list in 2000. It doesn't appear to have landed there since.
More recently, the school was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for turning a blind eye to victims of rape. It met its obligations to the federal agency in July 2015 in the gender-discrimination investigation and now touts itself as a national leader in preventing campus sexual assault.
The report cites a number of findings, as well as recommendations for policymakers to consider.
For instance, it estimates the societal cost of rapes "caused by Division IA games" falls anywhere between $68 million and $205 million, based on an average of $267,000 per rape.
"Despite substantial and rapidly increasing investments in such programs – nearly all of which are subsidized by their student bodies and/or the university's general fund – there is a paucity of rigorous quantitative research into their effects on universities and students," according to the study.
A recent analysis by a local economist and lawmaker showed the UM Athletics Department receives an estimated $8.6 million annually in subsidies – the least amount of any subsidy received by schools in the Big Sky Conference, according to a national review.
"One could think about using some of the football revenue for sexual assault prevention and treatment to offset some of the negative effects we have documented," Swensen said.
Based on data schools reported to the FBI, the study outlines other statistics, including the following:
- Home games increase reports by 41 percent on the day of the game, and away games increase reports by 15 percent.
- "Back-of-the-envelope" calculations suggest football games cause 253 to 770 additional rapes per year in the 128 larger Division I (FBS) schools.
- Estimates suggest the 125 smaller Division I (FCS) schools see 6 to 115 additional rapes.
- "Consistent with our emphasis on partying as the most likely causal pathway, upset wins increase arrests for drunkenness, DUIs, liquor law violations and public order offenses, while upset losses appear to have no such effects."
- Schools that reported data tended to be larger (13,228 average enrollment), were less likely to be private, and had a higher share of white students (74 percent versus 68 percent).
- Reports of rape are elevated on the day before a game by roughly 11 percent.