A study into the relationship between athletics and academic performance in NCAA Division III shows that male athletes generally rank lower in their class than their non-athlete counterparts. That's the initial finding of the College Sports Project after its first year of data collection.
Based on an analysis of 71 institutions and nearly 40,000 students, the report compared academic performance between student-athletes and non-athletes at the end of their first year at their institutions. It found there were only modest differences between female athletes and non-athletes, but male athletes had class ranks eight percentile points lower than male non-athletes. It also found that athletes who were not recruited had class ranks seven percentile points higher than recruited athletes.
John Emerson, Middlebury College Dean of Planning and Dana Professor of Mathematics, the study's principal investigator, says the project is focused on helping preserve academic expectations of student-athletes. "The basic principle is that we don't want to have two different cultures developing, but an integrated student culture," Emerson says. "That is something we think we've had in Division III for decades and we want to make sure it continues."
Over the next four years, the project will examine how student-athletes match up with non-athletes in areas like retention, graduation rates, time-to-degree, and grade point average. The first group studied was the 2005-06 freshman class, and data will continue to be collected every year on that class as well as each new class.
Aside from collecting academic data, the project is also helping to develop programs that enable coaches and athletic directors to become better integrated into the academic aspects of their institutions. "It's very important to make sure coaches and academic faculty members talk to each other, understand each other's perspective, and work collaboratively," Emerson says. "We find if you have those conversations in a systematic way, it's not hard at all to get those in academics to see the values on the athletic side, and coaches start to work more collaboratively with academic faculty."
For more information about the College Sports Project and the academic performance study, go to: www.princeton.edu/~cspo/.