Faculty Attitudes toward Male Division II Student-Athletes

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine faculty attitudes and stereotypes of athletes at an NCAA Division II school. MANOVA suggest that faculty harbor prejudicial attitudes toward both revenue and non-revenue athletes in the areas concerning out of class achievement, admission to the university, reception of full scholarships, and expanded tutoring services for athletes.

For decades "big-time" college athletics and higher education have led a tenuous relationship. The media, university administrators, and coaches have engaged in spirited banter over whether participation in "big-time" college sports (typically defined as National Collegiate Athletic Association Division IA revenue sport programs such as men's basketball and football) serve to complement or undermine the university's educational mission. Moreover, various researchers have contributed to the dialogue by attempting to quantify many of these arguments. Studies on student-athlete performance have covered a wide range of issues including admissions standards (Curtis, 1995; Sigelman, 1995), academic performance (Adler & Adler, 1985; Petrie & Stover, 1997; Simmons, Van Rheenen, & Covington, 1999), psychosocial development (Blann, 1985; Sowa & Gressard, 1983), and graduation rates (Henschen & Fry, 1984; The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1998). The results of these studies seem to indicate student-athletes of NCAA Di vision I programs who participate in revenue sports may not hold to the high academic ideals of college academia. As a result, many persons have formed negative attitudes toward all college student-athletes. Moreover, these studies indicate that both faculty and nonathlete students have stereotyped these student athletes and have developed prejudices toward them (Engstrom & Sedlacek, 1991, 1993).

"Prejudice" is defined as having negative attitudes toward a distinct social group (Tajfel, 1969) while "stereotypes" are beliefs that all members of a specified social group share the same characteristics (Judd & Park, 1993). Prejudices against college student-athletes may be a consequence of the perceived incompatibility between the goals of big-time college athletic programs and the basic values of academic integrity and academic excellence in higher education. Stereotypes are created when persons wrongly assess others by formulating opinions and drawing conclusions about individuals based on little or no factual understanding of the person. So, for example, persons may stereotype all college student-athletes as being less intelligent than their nonathlete-student peers and may harbor prejudices based on their perception that student-athletes receive special benefits due to their status on campus. Thus, it may be that college student-athletes are the victims of both negative stereotypes and prejudicial at titudes. Along this line of research, Engstrom and colleagues provided evidence that negative stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes toward male student-athletes are indeed held by fellow students (Engstrom & Sedlacek, 1991, 1993) and university faculty (Engstrom, Sedlacek, & McEwen, 1995). Nonathlete-students tended to hold negative stereotypes of student-athletes around issues of academic competency and often identified student-athletes as poor academic performers. Faculty perceived student-athletes negatively in situations dealing with academic competence, special services, and recognition. An important finding of this research was that respondents' prejudicial attitudes did not differ relative to revenue and nonrevenue status thus suggesting that all male student-athletes were perceived equal. These findings lead Engstrom et al., (1995) to conclude that "fear, conscious and unconscious prejudicial attitudes and behaviors, patterns of misinformation, and stereotyping toward student-athletes all may be insti lled and perpetuated by members of the campus community" (p. 218).

While preliminary research has indicated that some faculty maintain prejudicial attitudes and stereotypes toward college student athletes, there are several variables that need to be considered in order to gain a more thorough understanding of this problem. …