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Student athlete (or student–athlete) is a term used principally in universities in the United States and Canada to describe students enrolled at postsecondary educational institutions, principally colleges and universities, but also at secondary schools, who participate in an organized competitive sport sponsored by that educational institution or school. The term student-athlete was coined in 1964 by Walter Byers, the first executive director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).[1] The term is also interchangeable with the synonymous term “varsity athlete”.

Historical perspective

Competitive intermural sports were introduced in post-secondary education in the United States in the nineteenth century. The first popular collegiate sport was crew, but football began its reign as the leading collegiate sport in the late 1880s.[2] As interest in football, so did injuries incurred in competition. The NCAA was born out of President Theodore Roosevelt's demand to reform college football. [2]

The relationship between educational institutions and sports has been controversial since the 1930s, with media coverage of sports generating significant revenue for schools in broadcast rights for school sports programs and increased enrollment resulting from athletic team success. [3] Concerns about the role of intercollegiate athletics in post-secondary education and the conflicting demands faced by student-athletes remain.[2]

Athletic scholarships

An athletic scholarship is a form of support for tuition, room, board, and related costs awarded to an individual based predominantly on ability in sport. Educational institutions may offer athletic scholarships to potential students that excel in sports and meet specific educational achievement standards. Student-athletes must be amateurs and may not participate in professional competition. Special treatment or incentives beyond the scope of the scholarships themselves are banned. [4] The scholarships generally include academic support such as tutoring and library services.[5]

Scholarships are regulated by organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). They set requirements such as a minimum academic performance for scholarship recipients (typically a grade point average), and a limit to the number of scholarships for players on college rosters. Each level (divisions) have different limits of scholarship money they can give out. Division III can not give out scholarships for athletics though. [6][7][8]

Scholarships in the NCAA

NCAA regulations govern amateur status, and prohibit student-athletes from accepting prize money or compensation or sports agent representation.[9] Prospective student-athletes at NCAA schools have their academic credentials and amateur status certified.[10]

The NCAA Eligibility Center certifies whether prospective college athletes are eligible to play sports at NCAA Division I or II institutions. It reviews the student-athlete's academic record, SAT or ACT scores, and amateur status to ensure conformity with NCAA rules.[11] To be eligible for an athletic scholarship in a NCAA member institution, students must meet four main requirements: 1. Graduate from high school; 2. Complete the required number of core high school courses; 3. Earn a specified minimum GPA on a 4.0 scale in required core academic courses; 4. Achieve a specified minimum SAT or ACT score.[12]

The NCAA has developed prerequisites for potential collegiate athletes based on its division structure:

The Student Athlete Performance Rating (SAPR) [14] and Academic Progress Rate (APR) are used to measure student-athlete academic performance.

The Academic Progress Rate is an NCAA tool that measures the success of a program's athletes toward graduation. It takes into account academic eligibility and retention.[15] Division I sports teams calculate their student-athletes APRs each academic year; it serves as a predictor of graduation success.

Athletic scholarship challenges

Gaining access to athletic programs and athletic scholarships can be difficult.[16] Few high school athletes earn college scholarships, and only a small percentage of athletic scholarships cover a student's tuition, room, board, and related expenses. [16] Only about 2% of high school athletes earn an athletic scholarship to an NCAA university and, on average, these scholarships are far less than the average tuition. Only 1% of students get a full ride scholarship.[17] The student athletes must meet the NCAA eligibility standards, and failure to meet these standards and complete academic work can jeopardize the student athlete's ability to compete, receive scholarships, and graduate from the institution at which they are enrolled.[18]

Student athlete pressures

Student-athletes face distinct challenges, including balancing athletic responsibilities with academic and social responsibilities; balancing athletic success or failure with emotional stability; balancing physical health and injury with the need to continue competing; balancing relationships with coaches, teammates, parents, and friends; and addressing the end of a college athletic career.[19][20] Student-athletes also face challenges relating to identity, with self-worth often hinging on athletic success.[19] [21]

Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, commonly known simply as Title IX, is a United States law enacted on June 23, 1972, that states: "No person in the United States shall, based on sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was designed to balance the amount of money spent on men's and women's sports. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy took a serious interest in women's athletics and was a champion of Title IX. [22] "Over time, he played the leading role in keeping Title IX strong through the Senate, using his stature and his savvy to ensure that it remained strong protection for women in athletics," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center. "As his leadership in the Senate grew, his responsibility for ensuring that Title IX remained strong and enforced grew. He became the dominant force behind the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, which virtually re-enacted Title IX after a devastating, narrow Supreme Court decision, which among other things, removed Title IX coverage from all intercollegiate athletics; in this country." Greenberger contends that Title IX might not have survived without Kennedy's guardianship, and thus the sports world as it is today might be vastly different. The increased opportunities for female athletes can be witnessed in college and high school athletics programs and, in turn, have helped spawn professional leagues and greater participation and success at the Olympic level.[22]

Graduation rates for student athletes

United States federal law mandates that universities reveal their graduation rates to inform policymakers and constituencies about efforts to support educational attainment for students and athletes.[23] Revealing student-athlete graduation rates helps prospective student-athletes estimate the course load and amount of practice and game time that will occupy their schedules. Universities with more selective admission policies graduate both students and athletes at higher rates, though their athletes graduate at lower rates relative to their student cohorts.[23]

All three levels of competition take a Graduation Success Rate; it analyzes the percentage of athletes who receive a degree from their school. The Graduation Success Rate is different from an ordinary graduation rate in that it fails to include athletes who have transferred from a given school (perhaps because of grades). At the Division I level, the most recent Graduation Success Rate measurement is 86 percent, which is the highest ever. This score is 15 percent better than the initial record in 1984.[24] Overall, athletes graduated at a higher rate than their non-athletic peers. Graduation rates of athletes and non-athletes vary based on demographics. [24] Division II uses the Academic Success Rate, which is different than the Graduation Success Rate used by the Division I level. The Academic Success Rate includes freshman athletes on a team who are not on an athletic scholarship. Division II athletes and Division II non-athletes perform at a relatively similar level. [24]

Reason for higher graduation rates

The reason that student-athletes appear to have higher graduation rates is not clear. One answer may be that athletes stay on track due to tutors and other academic resources provided to them by their university.[25] Student-athletes are reportedly often discouraged from taking more challenging courses.

Student athletes after college

98% of collegiate athletes do not move on to professional sports after college. Many struggle. [26]

Administrators, teachers, counselors and others may accommodate academic cheating in an effort to ensure academic eligibility or to guarantee college admission.[27] “Unfortunately, those high school/college athletes who have role status and popularity thrust on them may see little need to develop a wide repertoire of interpersonal skills or to augment their educational and vocational skills”.[28] Ultimately this could lead to a lack of rationality when it comes to future goals and objectives.

Fewer than 4% of high school football and basketball players make the transition to the collegiate level, and fewer than 2% of that 4% continue into the professional ranks, making the prospects for continuing in competitive team athletics more an illusion than a realistic option.[29] Despite these data, a significant number of high school athletes continue to view college sport as the minor league experience necessary for entry into professional sports.[28]

Graduation rates compared

There is a noticeable difference in graduation rates between scholarship and non-scholarship athletes. The athletes who attend school on scholarship have typically fared worse than non-scholarship or partial-scholarship athletes in academic achievement.[23] The table of Demographic and Academic Information for Athletes and the General Student Population reveals that non-athlete students on average have higher GPA's than student athletes. The national average high school GPA for athletes was 2.99, while it was 3.31 for non-athletes. The national average college GPA for student athletes is 2.56 with a national graduation rate of 34.2%; non-athletes average GPAs are slightly higher at 2.74 with a national graduation rate of 46.8%.[23] Analysis of 10 years of graduation rates across all major athletic programs concludes that graduation rates alone are insufficient and misleading unless they account for the widely varying constituencies served by different universities.[30]

Student athletes and NCAA compliance

Educational institutions in the NCAA are required to comply with the NCAA's rules and regulations, at the risk of serious penalties.[31]

See also


  1. ^ Branch, Taylor (October 2011). "The Shame of College Sports". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 7, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "New Directions for Student Services Volume 2001, Issue 93, Article First Published Online: 15 NOV 2002." Who Are Student-Athletes? Web. March 23, 2012.
  3. ^ "The Value of Funding Athletics." The Montana Professor Academic Journal. Web. March 23, 2012.
  4. ^ Richards High School right to reject Dwyane Wade rendezvous
  5. ^ Lorenzen, M., & Lucas, N. (2002). Introducing first-year student-athletes to the library: The Michigan State University experience. In J. Nims and A. Andrew (Eds.), "First impressions, lasting impact: Introducing the first-year student to the academic library" (pp. 95-100). Ann Arbor, MI: Pierian Press.
  6. ^ "How to Get an Athletic Scholarship". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  7. ^ "College Sports Recruiting Information and Resources." The Athlete's Guide to College Sports Scholarships and The Athletic Recruiting Process. Web. February 26, 2012.
  8. ^ Controversial Student-Athlete Rules Changed
  9. ^ NCAA, NCAA. "Amateurism". Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  10. ^ Hosick, Michelle Brutlag. "NCAA Eligibility Center up to the task". Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  11. ^ "College Board." NCAA Eligibility Basics. Web. March 02. 2012.
  12. ^ "Athletic Scholarships." COLLEGEdata. Web. March 24. 2012.
  13. ^ a b "Becoming a Student-athlete". NCAA. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  14. ^ "SAPR - Student Athletic Performance Rating." Untitled Document. Web. 23 Mar. 2012.
  15. ^ "SHOW ME THE RECORDS: Academic Progress Rate." - Columbia Missourian. Web. March 12, 2012.
  16. ^ a b Holland, Kelley; Schoen, John (2014-10-13). "Fantasy Football: College Scholarship Myths Busted". CNBC. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  17. ^ "Athletic Scholarship Facts | Get an Athletic Scholarship". 2018-01-30. Retrieved 2023-04-18.
  18. ^ Carodine, Keith; Almond, Kevin F.; Gratto, Katherine K. (2001-03-01). "College Student Athlete Success Both In and Out of the Classroom". New Directions for Student Services. 2001 (93): 19–33. doi:10.1002/ss.2. ISSN 1536-0695.
  19. ^ a b Kissinger, Daniel. College student Athletes: Challenges, opportunities and policy implications. p. 6.
  20. ^ Gaston, Gayles (2004). "Examining academic and athletic motivation among student-athletes at a Division I university". Journal of College Student Development. 45 (1): 75. doi:10.1353/csd.2004.0005. S2CID 143472408.
  21. ^ Seelke, John (1995-10-05). "Pressures mount for student-athletes". The Chronicle.
  22. ^ a b "The late Sen. Ted Kennedy left a lasting impact on sports with his steady support of Title IX - ESPN". 2009-08-26. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  23. ^ a b c d Ferris, Eric; Mark Finster; David McDonald (September 2004). "Academic Fit of Student-Athletes: An Analysis of NCAA Division I-A Graduation Rates". Research in Higher Education. 45 (6): 555–575. doi:10.1023/b:rihe.0000040263.39209.84. JSTOR 40197361. S2CID 144046844.
  24. ^ a b c "Graduation Success Rate Continues to Climb". 2015-11-04. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  25. ^ "Student Athletes Balance Sports and Academics". 2015-12-09. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  26. ^ Cheney Rice, Zak. "Here's what happens to the 98% of college athletes who don't go pro". Mic Network Inc.
  27. ^ Nicholi, Armand M. (1987-04-23). "Psychiatric Consultation in Professional Football". New England Journal of Medicine. 316 (17): 1095–1100. doi:10.1056/nejm198704233161719. ISSN 0028-4793. PMID 3561468.
  28. ^ a b GOLDBERG, ALAN D.; CHANDLER, TIMOTHY J. L. (December 1989). "The Role of Athletics". Youth & Society. 21 (2): 238–250. doi:10.1177/0044118x89021002006. ISSN 0044-118X. S2CID 149401222.
  29. ^ Leonard, Wilbert M.; Reyman, Jonathan E. (June 1988). "The Odds of Attaining Professional Athlete Status: Refining the Computations". Sociology of Sport Journal. 5 (2): 162–169. doi:10.1123/ssj.5.2.162. ISSN 0741-1235.
  30. ^ Research in Higher Education Vol. 45, No. 6 (Sep., 2004), pp. 555-575
  31. ^ jcoram (2013-11-27). "Enforcement Process: Penalties". - The Official Site of the NCAA. Retrieved 2018-04-27.