The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Football and men’s basketball players on the nation’s big-time college teams averaged hundreds of points lower on their SATs than their classmates, and some of the gaps are so large they call into question the lengths to which schools will go to win.
The biggest gap between football players and students as a whole occurred at the University of Florida, where players scored 346 points lower than the school’s overall student body [out of 1600 points, or about 1.5 standard deviations]. That’s larger than the difference in scores between typical students at the University of Georgia and Harvard University.
Hmmhmm, isn't Florida playing in the national championship game next month? Could there be a connection?
Seriously, one aspect of this that gets overlooked is that the average SAT scores at many state flagship schools have risen significantly over the last generation. For example, football players at Florida average 890, but U. of Florida students average 1236 which is pretty good. (Old timers who took the SAT before the fall of 1995 should subtract 110 points from these glitzy new scores to adjust them down to the harder scoring standards prevailing in their days.)
An 890 really isn't that bad. That's probably about the national average, if you included all the students who don't bother to take the SAT or ACT. (Am I right about that?). I suspect, however, that a lot of prize recruits took the SAT four or five times, and had lots of drilling in it.
Nationwide, football players average 220 points lower on the SAT than their classmates — and men’s basketball players average seven points less than football players.
Those figures come from an Atlanta Journal-Constitution study of 54 public universities, including the members of the six major Bowl Championship Series conferences and other schools whose teams finished the 2007-08 season ranked among the football or men’s basketball top 25.
While it’s commonly known that admission standards are different for athletes, the AJC study quantifies how wide the gap is between athletes and the general student body at major universities.
Georgia Tech’s football players had the nation’s best average SAT score, 1028 of a possible 1600, and best average high school GPA, 3.39 of a possible 4.0 in the core curriculum. But Tech’s football players still scored 315 SAT points lower on average than their classmates.
At the University of Georgia, the average football SAT was 949, which is 239 points behind the average for an undergraduate student at Georgia — and 79 points behind Tech’s football average. The Bulldogs’ average high school GPA was 2.77, or 45th out of 53 teams for which football GPAs were available. Their SAT average ranked them 22nd.
Nationwide, coaches who would never offer a scholarship to a player who was 6 inches shorter or half a second slower than other prospects routinely recruit players whose standardized test scores suggest they’re at a competitive disadvantage in the classroom.
It’s the price of winning.
“If you’re going to mount a competitive program in Division I-A, and our institution is committed to do that, some flexibility in admissions of athletes is going to take place,” said Tom Lifka, chairman of the committee that handles athlete admissions at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Every institution I know in the country operates in the same way. It may or may not be a good thing, but that’s the way it is.”
UCLA, which has won more NCAA championships in all sports than any other school, had the biggest gap between the average SAT scores of athletes in all sports and its overall student body, at 247 points. ...
FOOTBALL SAT SCORES:THE BOTTOM 10
THE TOP 10
Georgia Tech, 1028
Oregon State, 997
Oklahoma State, 878
Texas Tech, 901
Texas A&M, 911
Mississippi State, 911
Washington State, 916
Michigan State, 917
Black athletes’ average SAT score was 102 points lower than the average for black students overall. White athletes’ average SAT score was 88 points lower than the average for white students overall. One expert says those numbers suggest schools are motivated by money, not affirmative action. If universities were motivated by affirmative action, they would enroll black students whose qualifications give them a better chance to succeed in class, rather than athletes whose skills help the school sell football and basketball tickets, said Allen Sack, director of the University of New Haven’s Institute for Sport Management and a former University of Notre Dame football player.
“The black athletes are far more represented in football and basketball, the two sports that produce the most revenue,” Sack said. “Is there exploitation going on? I would suggest there is.”
Sack said universities might be exploiting those athletes who enter with inferior academic credentials, even if athletes as a whole graduate at a higher rate than non-athletes. “The athletes should all be graduating at a higher rate than the student body because they have the incredible advantage of having tuition, room and board paid for them,” Sack said.
The most recent Division I data showed black athletes in men’s sports outperforming black men’s graduation rate overall, 48 percent to 38 percent, and black athletes in women’s sports outperforming black women’s graduation rate overall, 66 percent to 50 percent. For white women, the graduation rates were 74 percent for athletes, 67 percent overall. The only large group in which athletes underperformed: White men, with athletes graduating at 61 percent and students as a whole at 62 percent.