The Sophomore Jinx

7 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008 Last revised: 25 Sep 2017

See all articles by Phillip E. Pfeifer

Phillip E. Pfeifer

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper


This case discusses the so-called sophomore jinx: professional athletes who perform superbly as rookies never seem to do as well in their second--sophomore--season. The case gives performance data for Rookie of the Year award winners in major-league baseball through 2003 (29 pitchers and 83 nonpitchers). Data cover both the first and second years. Students must decide for themselves, based on the data, whether the sophomore jinx is real or imagined.



Rev. Sept. 13, 2017


Many people believe in a phenomenon called the sophomore jinx. Usually associated with professional sports, the sophomore jinx refers to the observation that athletes often perform surprisingly well in their first season of competition, but rarely do as well in their second, or sophomore, season. The popular press is filled with references to the jinx—either as an explanation of poor second-year performance or as a reason for celebration when someone beats the jinx and does better in the second year.

The sophomore jinx has become such an accepted part of American culture that it has been seen in areas outside professional sports. A 1984 article in Forbes took for granted that the reader was familiar with the jinx and predicted that the United States Football League, a professional football league started in 1983, would face it in its second year of operation. The article did not suggest that the jinx would affect athletic performance per se but, rather, the financial performance of the struggling league.

The Cover-Story Jinx

. . .

Keywords: data analysis, performance evaluation, performance management, performance measurement, quantitative analysis, general, regression analysis, sampling, statistics

Suggested Citation

Pfeifer, Phillip E., The Sophomore Jinx. Darden Case No. UVA-QA-0385. Available at SSRN:

Phillip E. Pfeifer (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4803 (Phone)


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