05/16/2014 10:01 am ET Updated Jul 15, 2014

The Prom Draft Experiment: Corona del Mar's Draft

While sports bleed into daily life, most individuals do not take their love of the game as seriously as the students at Corona del Mar High School. To attain the best prom date possible, 40 male students instituted a draft to select their prom dates. Although many do and should take issue with the objectifying nature of NFL-style prom draft, the draft is a very interesting social experiment.

At an experimental level, an important issue not yet considered is that the prom draft may not necessarily give young men the most desirable female dates. The most attractive prom picks theoretically may already be in a couple and not subject to the draft, unlike the NFL draft in which all college players entering NFL in a given year are eligible for selection. Although young men allegedly have paid to improve their draft order, money theoretically cannot buy love nor the most attractive young women if already coupled.

Unlike experiments and the NFL draft, the criteria used to evaluate prom draft picks are unknown. NFL draft picks are evaluated using multiple, objective factors, including player size, stamina, yards run, and passes intercepted. The criteria used to evaluate the women, however, are limited and not objective. Female dates are most likely evaluated exclusively on their looks and how likely they are to put out on prom night.

As with all experiments, there are concerns about ethics. To date, most reports are concerned about the troubling gender implications of the prom draft. The reports, however, have not yet considered why these young women are observing the draft. Although young women have the option to say no to their prospective date, the young women, according to many accounts, seem to be compliant. While young women traditionally wait for men to ask them to prom, the Corona del Mar female students seem to be adopting the draft pecking order to a surprising degree. NFL coaches only wish their players were as compliant.

Experiments and markets like the prom draft involve matching. In the traditional dating market and in the NFL, the matching process is two-sided. Young men at Corona del Mar, however, at least initially have a one-sided model because they are the only individuals involved in the selection process. The young women rather than being active participants in the draft are completely uninvolved until being asked to prom. Alternative prom draft models should be explored. For example, next year the draft could be Sadie Hawkins style, in which young women were selecting dates. Although highly unlikely and distasteful, the students could employ an optimal matching model in which both men and women can evaluate prospective dates. Theoretically, the most desirable men and women would then select each other as prom dates.

The prom draft is also an opportunity to examine aspects of the actual dating market, such as the role of age. Age is always a factor in the dating market with men traditionally preferring younger women and women preferring older men. Age preferences by gender could lead to imbalances in available prom dates. For example, sophomore and junior girls are being asked by junior and senior boys to prom, thereby eliminating dates for junior and senior girls. While junior and senior girls could presumably bring a college boy or a boy from a neighboring school, age and gender imbalances may leave many young girls without dates.

As a sociologist who studies dating and marriage markets, the prom draft is amusing at a sociological level. While prom is the Super Bowl of high school, young men and women should not necessarily adopt all of the NFL's practices. Moreover, in an age of "promposals" and drafts that run as smoothly as a fullback, parents and schools may want to consider how proms are conducted. Are you ready for some prom?