Participation in Collegiate Athletics and Academic Performance
John Fizeland Timothy Smaby
The stereotype of the "dumb jock" seems to have coincided with the advent of collegiate sports. Similarly, so began the tales of the unethical means by which many varsity athletes are recruited and kept eligible. Revelations such as falsified transcripts, credit for phantom courses, surrogates for tests, phony test scores, and illiterate athletes have continually tarnished the reputation of college sports ( Bergmann, 1991; Sperber, 1990; Telander, 1989). These violations appear to have been exacerbated by the financial climate of contemporary sports. Winning programs attract lucrative television money, bowl and tourney bids, alumni donations, and high attendance figures. While coaches may publicly espouse that their athletes are students first and athletes second, they and their institutions have a strong financial interest in recruiting good players and keeping them eligible by whatever means ( Knight Foundation Commission 1991; Lederman 1991).
Historically, the organization responsible for policing collegiate athletic programs, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), had focused on violations of amateurism--such as athletes receiving financial inducements to play --and neglected the investigation of charges that athletes may be receiving an inferior education. Recently, however, the NCAA has enacted reforms designed to put the "student" back into "student athlete." Propositions 48 and 42 define specific academic eligibility criteria for freshmen athletes. These criteria consist of a sliding scale that focuses on the grade point average earned in thirteen core high school subjects and a score on either the SAT or ACT. Those who fall short of the standards are not able to participate but can earn eligibility if a 1.8 GPA (out of 4.0) is maintained over twenty- four credits during their freshmen year of college.
The NCAA has also limited athlete practice and conditioning time so that more