A Comparison of the Graduation Rates, GPA and After College Success of Student-Athletes and Regular Students
Honors College Thesis
Advisor: Professor David Smith
Sports are a huge part of American people’s lives. Americans spend over $100 billion annually on sports. This expense is the fourth highest in the United States, with only our defense, education systems and health getting more. Through these numbers, it is evident that sports have a big impact on the culture of American life and influence far beyond the playing field. A sport provides its athletes with many benefits. Not only can sports provide athletes with popularity, authority and money, sports can also provide athletes with a sense of internal achievement and success (Andre & James, 1991). Guttman notes that once athletes are finished being recruited, they often tend to focus on their athletic pursuits, instead of their academic ones. Although many questions have been raised about the ethics of recruiting someone who is well below the requested levels, some defend the coaches in saying that, “We may not make a university student out of him, but if we can teach him to read and write, maybe he can work at the post office rather than as a garbage man when he gets through his athletic career (Guttman, 26.)” Many consider athletics to be intrinisically educational. In addition, others believe that it works well as a character builder. Participation in athletics has helped athletes learn loyalty, teamwork and how to perform in pressure situations, etc. One interesting thing that was noted by Simon was that in some cases, “education can be viewed as an obstacle the athletic program must overcome to keep its players eligible (Simon, 53.)” The goal of the NCAA, as declared in the NCAA Manual is to “initiate, stimulate, and improve intercollegiate athletic programs for student-athletes and develop educational leadership, physical fitness, sports participation as a recreational pursuit and athletic excellence (Renick, 546).” In addition, the NCAA seeks to “maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body” and “retain a clear line…between college athletics and professional sports (Renick, 546).” As Renick points out, although there are many athletes who excel in both their athletic and academic pursuits, there are also many that do not. Many athletes are so focused on their sport and performing well athletically that they only worry about maintaining their eligibility. Many of these students choose easy majors, take easy courses, etc (Renick, 549). Many stereotypes exist about the academic success and failure of student-athletes. The idea of the “dumb jock” is often promulgated, unchallenged, by the general academic community. This thesis examines whether the stereotype has merit by comparing the academic success characteristics of student-athletes versus the general student body at collegiate institutions and beyond (Hildenbrand).
According to NCAA President Myles Brand “the academic achievement of our student-athletes continues to improve (Eckard, 45).” Brand stated that it was “one of our [NCAA] greatest success stories (Eckard, 45).” Many have argued that the NCAA exploits college athletes by requiring they be unpaid amateurs. The NCAA believes, however, that these students are not being exploited because their scholarships allow them to receive a college degree. The NCAA claims that the graduation rate for student-athletes is higher than those of the general student body. However, this statistic is biased. The graduation rate of student-athletes is higher than the general student body but many non-athlete students that are included in these figures are part-time students. In contrast, student-athletes must be full time students to be eligible. As Eckard (2010)...
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