Academic journal article College Student Journal

Academic Clustering and Major Selection of Intercollegiate Student-Athletes

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Academic Clustering and Major Selection of Intercollegiate Student-Athletes

Article excerpt

Although journalists and reporters have written about academic clustering among college student-athletes, there has been a dearth of scholarly analysis devoted to the subject. This study explored football players' academic major selections to determine if academic clustering actually existed. The seasons 1996, 2001, and 2006 were selected for analysis. A list of academic majors representing each football team from each of the three seasons was created. Furthermore, academic majors consisting of 10 or more players were selected and compared to the general student body that were also enrolled in those specific majors at the respective institutions. In regards to the theory of clustering, Chi-square was used to identify statistical significance. The results suggested that academic clustering existed within intercollegiate athletics when compared to the general students at the respective institution.

Introduction

College athletics has become a defining element in our society (Watt & Moore, 2001). Regardless of the sport, our culture has embraced college student-athletes ability to unite, electrify, astonish, and excite both those who observe and participate. The display of talent is continuous and demonstrates the dedication that student-athletes exhibit at every intercollegiate competition.

Academically, however, there are questions in regards to student-athlete performance (Watt & Moore, 2001). There are administrators that believe "many student-athletes will choose the path of least resistance--less competitive majors--so they can maintain their eligibility" (Lederman, 2003). The position of college athletic academic advisors has been created and they play a role in maintaining the eligibility of the student-athlete (Busch, 2007). The environment is created by both academic and athletic staff to "funnel athletes into 'athlete-friendly' majors and classes, ultimately keeping the students eligible for play" (Knight Commission, 2006; Crepeau, 2006). It is also believed that multiple athletes from one team will have the same major for simplicity, flexibility and competition eligibility. This grouping of athletes into one major is referred to as "clustering." (Lederman, 2003). "Every school in the country has a hideaway curriculum, a secret underground tunnel, for athletes." The results are unethical and to the detriment of the student-athlete (Lederman, 2003).

Are college football players from one team "clustered" into the same academic major? This research addresses academic major selection and the existence of clustering on the football teams within the Big 12 Conference during the seasons of 2006, 2001, and 1996.

Literature Review

Academic clustering is one of many underlining issues within the debate on college athletics and academics. Although there are numerous popular press articles that have been written about academic clustering among college student-athletes, there has been a dearth of scholarly analysis devoted to the subject. Most journalists agree that there was evidence of "clustering" within certain departments and majors and it mostly occurs under the protection of faculty members who value athletic success (Capriccioso, 2006). However, several questions regarding academic clustering arise. Is it normal to have an abundance of athletes in one major disproportionate to the rest of the student body? Does clustering occur for specific reasons?

One theory of why clustering may exist is for the comfort of the athlete. Many athletes feel classes that attract other athletes make them more comfortable (McGinn and O'Brien, 2004).

Another part to the athlete cluster theory is that academic recommendations by former college athletes sway academic major decisions. McGinn and O'Brien (2004) noted that select student-athletes chose their majors purely from peer athletes' recommendations.

Academic Advisors also play a role in maintaining eligibility which can lead to academic clustering (Busch, 2007). …

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