Sports Economics: Current Research

By John Fizel; Elizabeth Gustafson et al. | Go to book overview

participants have grades comparable to other students. However, revenue sports participants as a group how significantly lower grades than other students. The impact on the expected GPA of participants in revenue sports is -0.148. The magnitude of this effect seems small, but with an average GPA for all students equal to 2.916 and a standard deviation of 0.53, this result implies that the average revenue sport athlete has a GPA equivalent to approximately the thirty-ninth percentile of the entire student body. Moreover, this effect occurs even after controlling for SAT disadvantages and curricular choices made by the athletes.

The impact of athletic participation on GPA, however, is not uniform between particular sports groups. Although participants in nonrevenue sports as a group exhibited no significant differences in GPA, we find that grades are significantly different in three individual nonrevenue sports. Women's field hockey and men's fencing participants face dramatic declines in GPA. On the other hand, the women's swim team participants have above average academic performance. Participants in all other nonrevenue sports perform equivalently to their nonathletic peers.

Regarding revenue sports, the athletes exhibit no significant differences in GPAs except for men's football. Participants in men's football perform worse than their peers with comparable backgrounds. Because men's football is the only revenue sport with a significant effect on GPA, the quantitative remarks concerning revenue sports participants made in the above paragraph should apply only to those in men's football. Interestingly, men's football is the primary source of sports revenue to the university. Also, there are more athletes competing in men's football than other sports. The ninety-two participants in men's football is almost twice the number of athletes competing in any other sport. It is also interesting to see that multiple varsity athletes have grades that are no worse (or better) than their peers.


CONCLUSION

We compiled data on all full-time baccalaureate students at Penn State University for spring 1995. Using these data, we examined the effects of athletic participation on classroom achievement. In the process we uncovered a number of interesting findings.

First, athletes have average SAT scores that are below those of other students. Two of the three revenue-producing sports for the university show the lowest SAT averages. This occurs despite the SAT and high school core course requirements of Propositions 42 and 48. While the initiation of these propositions may have reduced the differences between the scholastic backgrounds of athletes and nonathletes, measurable differences continue to exist. These data are consistent with admission policies that pave the way to recruit an excellent athlete who is a marginal student, but they also create a situation where the student athlete will continually be at a disadvantage in competing with peers in the classroom.

If the student athlete begins with a competitive disadvantage in the classroom, maintaining eligibility may become a problem. Perhaps in an attempt to offset this academic disadvantage, athletes will opt for less rigorous curricula as suggested by our results. If this is the primary reason for curricula choices, athletes have had their academic opportunities compromised. Our results also imply that athletes may be

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