Athletes and Academic Performance

Robots and Keel(2000) explain how many feel participation in sports inhibits students’ ability to do well in the classroom. Practice and travel commitments consume students’ time. On the other hand, participating in athletics may provide students with the structure in their lives that enables success. The athletes may be highly motivated individuals and be able to balance athletics and academics. Studies of this show varying results. Focus is primarily on National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division athletes and schools 2000).

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Research on Division Ill schools is also needed due to several difficulties in analyzing Division I athletes. Division I athletes in revenue sports (usually men’s football and basketball) typically have lower grades than non athletes. This is not sufficient proof that sports participation harms students (2000). Athlete’s grades are only one measure of a student’s success in college. They may balance their study time by taking only a few courses per semester, which can lead to not graduating on time. There are many studies that compare athletes’ and non athletes’ academic references at Division I institutions.

Results vary somewhat across institutions, however, several findings appear in a majority of research. Athletes are less prepared for college, as measured by lower high school ranks and Gaps, and SAT/ACT scores. Athletes in revenue producing sports have lower college Gaps and graduation rates, while athletes in non-revenue sports are similar to non athletes. Although athletes seem less prepared for college, non-revenue sport participants perform as well academically (Robots and Keel 2000, p. 548). Stuart (1985) suggests this may be due to support services provided by many schools for athletes.

An important drawback is that these studies only compare means and do not perform any econometric analysis. Some athletes may have lower grades because they are less prepared for college, not due to sports participation. A study on Columbia University students found athletes’ overall Gaps are similar to non athletes, but are lower in selected core courses required of all students.

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