Thursday, October 16, 2008

NCAA Tries to Dispel "Dumb Jock" Myth

The NCAA is trying to dispel the myth of the "dumb jock." Via Inside Higher Ed:

Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, wants to cease the propagation of "the so-called ‘dumb jock’ myth," as he puts it. Trumpeting new data showing that NCAA Division I athletes are graduating at the highest rates ever — even as players in high-profile sports such as baseball, football and men’s and women’s basketball continue to lag — Brand and other NCAA officials argue that recently adopted and stricter academic accountability rules are steadily sidelining old stereotypes.

I've always bristled at the concept of the "dumb jock." On the whole, I don't think that athletes are any less intelligent than the rest of the general population. However, nearly every NCAA Division I institution has a lower set of admission standards for scholarship athletes than it has for general (non athlete) applicants. And Division I athletes have advisers and tutors holding their hands from the minute they arrive on campus to Commencement day.

I'm glad that the NCAA no longer counts transfers against institutions' graduation rates. That practice always seemed unfair to me. But I'm still not convinced that the NCAA isn't just shuffling the deck, with regard to their compilation of graduation data, in order to show improvement in graduation rates. And as a former NCAA Division III athlete (Division III institutions don't grant athletic scholarships and don't grant privileged status to student athletes), I suspect that I'd be best served by continuing take any of the NCAA's talk of "academic excellence" at the Division I level with a big grain (or two) of salt.


It looks like the people who left comments in the comments section of the Inside Higher Ed article share some of my skepticism. Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on Division I athletes or on Division I institutions. But there's no question that Division I schools go out of their way -- usually way out of their way -- and, quite often, look the other way in order to help revenue sport athletes succeed academically.


Anonymous said...

I used to be an academic tutor for athletes at Illinois. In general, I found that there was a noticeable difference between the study habits and aptitude of scholarship athletes versus non-scholarship athletes (with non-scholarship athletes being just as diligent and intelligent and usually harder working than the average U of I student). This wasn't across the board in all instances, but simply a general observation. I won't begrudge any Division I athlete for their workload - they have early morning practices and regimented schedules that I would never have been able to handle (and certainly wouldn't have allowed me to have my weekends start at 3 pm on Thursday during my junior and senior years). Still, when the average ACT score of an Illinois student is around 30 and there's absolutely no qualms about allowing any top-rated recruit as long as he hits the minimum 18 (or in the case of a megastar recruit such as Frank Williams back in the late-90s, make him into an academic red-shirt if he can't even get the 18), it's pretty clear that the school is more than willing to look the other way in the admissions process. Other than Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, and Vanderbilt, this is the modus operandi for all of the BCS schools.

Have Jumpshot Will Travel (a.k.a. Trashtalk Superstar) said...


The workload of the typical Division I athlete is no joke. No doubt, they lead very structured lives. Division II, Division III & NAIA athletes lead structured lives too, but not to the extent that D I athletes do.

As I said, I'm not trying to hate on Division I guys. First, there's probably nobody who works harder than non scholarship Division I athletes. Walk ons have the toughest gig in college sports. Second, there are always scholarship athletes who take their studies seriously and who could have gained admittance to their schools without benefiting from lowered entrance standards. But clearly, the carefully crafted narrative of the hard working, hard studying high major DI student athlete that the NCAA has attempted to promote is little more than a charade (at least as far as BCS schools are concerned -- the Patriot League, Ivy League and service academies are a different deal).

BTW, Duke and Stanford lower their entrance standards for athletes more than people tend to realize.