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Online and Off the Field: Predicting School Choice in College Football Recruiting from Social Media Data


  • Kristina Gavin Bigsby

    () (Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Informatics, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242)

  • Jeffrey W. Ohlmann

    () (Department of Management Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242)

  • Kang Zhao

    () (Department of Management Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242)


This study explores predictors of school choice decisions in American college football recruitment. We combine data about individual athletes’ recruiting activities with social media data to predict which school the athlete will choose among those that have offered him a scholarship. While previous works have approached school choice as a rational decision process, our results indicate that a bounded rationality model incorporating social factors and heuristics may be more appropriate. We explore how the actions taken by athletes during recruitment can be interpreted as early signals of athletes’ preferences and find that models incorporating social media features consistently outperform the baseline model with only off-line recruiting features. In addition to better understanding the school choice decision, this work can help coaches to effectively allocate recruiting resources and inform social media strategies during recruitment.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristina Gavin Bigsby & Jeffrey W. Ohlmann & Kang Zhao, 2017. "Online and Off the Field: Predicting School Choice in College Football Recruiting from Social Media Data," Decision Analysis, INFORMS, vol. 14(4), pages 261-273, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ordeca:v:14:y:2017:i:4:p:261-273
    DOI: 10.1287/deca.2017.0353

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert A. Dees & Scott T. Nestler & Robert Kewley, 2013. "WholeSoldier Performance Appraisal to Support Mentoring and Personnel Decisions," Decision Analysis, INFORMS, vol. 10(1), pages 82-97, March.
    2. Robin M. Hogarth & Natalia Karelaia, 2006. "Regions of Rationality: Maps for Bounded Agents," Decision Analysis, INFORMS, vol. 3(3), pages 124-144, September.
    3. Popp, Nels & Pierce, David & Hums, Mary A., 2011. "A comparison of the college selection process for international and domestic student-athletes at NCAA Division I universities," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 176-187, May.
    4. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ali E. Abbas & Jay Simon & Chris Smith, 2017. "Introduction to the Special Issue on Decision Analysis and Social Media," Decision Analysis, INFORMS, vol. 14(4), pages 227-228, December.
    2. Vicki M. Bier & Simon French, 2020. "From the Editors: Decision Analysis Focus and Trends," Decision Analysis, INFORMS, vol. 17(1), pages 1-8, March.


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