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.