Tit-for-tat Strategies in Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma Games: Evidence from NCAA Football
Defection in every period is the dominant strategy Nash equilibrium in finitely repeated prisoner's dilemma games with complete information. However, in the presence of incomplete information, players may have an incentive to cooperate in some periods, leading to tit-for-tat strategies. We describe the decision to comply with recruiting regulations or cheat made by NCAA Division IA football programs as a finitely repeated prisoner's dilemma game. The game includes incomplete information about the resources devoted to football programs, the recruiting effort made by rival programs, and the behavior of rival programs. We test for evidence that NCAA Division IA football programs follow tit-for-tat strategies in terms of complying with or defecting from NCAA recruiting rules using panel data from NCAA Division IA football over the period 1976-2005. We find anecdotal and empirical evidence that is consistent with tit-for-tat strategies in this setting. The presence of in-conference rivals under NCAA sanctions increases the probability of a team being placed under sanctions.
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