Many observers of collegiate athletics have for years made the claim that schools tend to steer student-athletes into certain major fields of study to make it easier for them to maintain eligibility for sports. Now there is a report out in The Chronicle of Higher Education that supports this view.
The article quotes University of Hartford President, Walter Harrison, as saying, “At some level everyone knows that athletes are being channeled into certain majors”. Harrison is also the chairman of the NCAA Division I Committee on Academic Performance. He goes on to attribute this to scheduling issues and to the NCAA’s progress-towards-degree requirements for student-athletes.
Michael Miranda is the NCAA’s associate director for research. He presented preliminary findings in this area to the recent annual meeting for Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) faculty-athletics representatives. “This clearly is a concern,” said Miranda, “If people’s behaviors are being influenced by the rules we are writing . . . we have to look at them. We’re intrigued by that one; and we’ll take a closer look at that”.
This report was taken from a survey administered by the NCAA during the 2010-2011 academic year that got responses from some 858 faculty-athletics representatives across all three NCAA divisions. The survey also showed that faculty reps spend more than a third of their time dealing with academic matters and about a quarter of their time dealing with compliance and rule interpretation matters. The rest of their time was spent on administrative duties and athlete welfare matters.
The NCAA leaders promised that this matter would be studied further. It is indeed interesting to think that by putting forth rules designed to help student-athletes receive a better education the NCAA is inadvertently supporting policies that warehouse these students in “easy” courses that may have little real marketable value beyond college.
At a time when the ten regional accrediting agencies around the country are pressuring colleges to prove through measurement of learning outcomes for classes that students are acquiring knowledge that will help them get good jobs after college the NCAA does not want to be seen as helping its member schools keep athletes eligible while they learn little that will help them later in life.
We all know that many student-athletes do very well in school and graduate with academic honors and awards. Nevertheless the image of the “dumb jock” who is just in school hoping to improve on athletic skills to move on to professional sports is a persistent one that is proving difficult for schools to escape. Time will tell if the NCAA is truly serious about academic reform or if this is just publicity for public consumption.
To read the full Chronicle article click here.