Those Temple Owls caught a lot of passes this season, but they also apparently caught something else: the attention of prospective applicants to the university.
With the deadline to apply this week, Temple has seen an increase of more than 15 percent in applications for the fall 2016 class compared with this time last year. University officials are attributing at least some of that increase to the success of the football team, which went 10-4 and beat Penn State for the first time in 74 years.
"College football is the 'front porch' of university life," Temple President Neil D. Theobald said in an email Sunday morning. "The success we've had under [Coach] Matt Rhule - not only the wins but the exemplary way that the program represents Temple - has gathered many more friends and passersby with whom we interact on the university's 'front porch.' "
The university drew 32,655 applications as of last week, and William Black, Temple's senior vice provost of enrollment management, said he expects to end the year with about 34,000. Last year, the university received 30,043 applications, which was another record.
An increase in applications because of success on the football field isn't unexpected.
Universities with successful sports teams see a boost in fund-raising, applications, and reputation, according to a 2012 study by Michael L. Anderson, assistant professor of agriculture and resource economics at the University of California at Berkeley.
Another study, by Douglas J. Chung, a Harvard Business School assistant professor, found that when a school dramatically increases its performance on the football field, applications rise 19 percent. More applications translate to higher selectivity. And success, Chung found, even draws students with high SAT scores.
The positive influence has a name: "the Flutie Effect."
After Doug Flutie's last-second Hail Mary pass led Boston College to a victory over the University of Miami in 1984, the school enjoyed a surge in popularity. Over the next two years, applications increased about 30 percent, though some remain skeptical of the gridiron connection.
Theobald said more students are committing to Temple, as well.
"A huge number are coming off the porch and in the front door," he said. "Our deposits on enrollment are up 20 percent, with about 1,400 future Temple Owls having already accepted our offer of admission for next fall."
Theobald and other university officials said football isn't the only factor.
The university's 2014 decision to allow students to opt out of submitting standardized test scores also continues to be a driver, Black said.
The percentage of students who applied without SAT or other standardized test scores rose 11 percent from last year. About 20 percent of the 4,900 freshmen currently enrolled were admitted without test scores.
The jump in applications isn't the largest increase in recent years. Applications soared by 27 percent from 2013 to 2014 and then rose 9 percent from 2014 to 2015.
University officials say plans for upgrades to the main campus and the university's overall academic reputation also are attracting more students. The university rose six spots in U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings.
The average GPA for admitted freshmen is 3.63 this year and the average SAT score is 1195. And applications from both African American and Latino students are up, Black said.