Low standards, easy college acceptances for NESCAC athletes
Editor's Note: The report discussed here was commissioned by the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) presidents in December of last year and was intended as a followup to the book The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values. Because there was not ample time between the release of this report and press time to cover the report in depth, this article and this article simply summarize the results of the report . Further analysis, including interviews, will appear in a follow-up article next week.
According to a recent report, 75 percent of the males who were recruited
by NESCAC schools to play football, basketball, or ice hockey are in the
bottom one third of their class. In addition, these students scored an
average of 150 points lower on their SATs than did their average non-athletic
counterparts. These are only two statistics taken from a 30-page report
titled the "Academic-Athletic Divide," which was presented to
the NESCAC presidents on September 27. The report was kept under wraps
until this week, when President Barry Mills released it to the College
The report was written by the authors of The Game of Life, William
G. Bowen and James L. Shulman. The report follows a meeting on December
14, 2000 when NESCAC presidents discussed the findings from The Game of
Life and requested that a similar study be conducted that included all
The in-school data used in the new study came from the NESCAC matriculating
classes of 1995, and the admissions data came from NESCAC matriculating
classes of 1999.
(Tufts, however, was not included in the report due to its comparatively
larger student-body size. Williams also was not included in studies that
used recruitment as a variable, because it was unable to supply recruiting
information. Bates was not included in studies that used SAT scores, because
submitting such scores is considered optional for Bates applicants.)
The report compared participation, recruitment, admission, and academic
performance of both male and female athletes and non-athletes. Male athletes
were further broken down into high-profile sports (football, basketball,
and ice hockey) and low-profile sports (all others). Bowen and Shulman
did not designate any women's sports as high-profile.
The report was also able to use recruitment as a factor in its analyses.
Students were considered "recruited athletes," according to
the report, if their "name had been placed on a coach's recommendation
list that was used by the admissions office when making admittance decisions."
The first numbers the report looked at were percentages of athletic participation.
In the '95 class, an average of almost half of male students and a third
of female students played an intercollegiate sport at some point during
their college career.
The next area that the report looked at was recruitment. Recruitment
played the biggest role in high-profile athletics (68 percent of the high-profile
athletes were recruited), but it also played an important role in low-profile
athletics (40 percent of low-profile athletes and 50 percent of female
athletes had been recruited).
The report then looked at the admissions advantage that recruited players
receive over non-recruited players. The report found that the average
male recruit has a 34 percentage-point advantage over the average male
non-recruit, and the average female recruit has a 33 percentage-point
advantage over the average female non-recruit.
The report also found that athletes in general tend to have lower SAT
scores than non-athletes. Low-profile athletes and females tended to have
scores of 30 points less than students at large, and high-profile athletes
tended to have scores of more than 125 points below those of students
It was also found that recruited athletes had even lower scores than
non-recruited athletes. Recruited high-profile athletes had scores almost
90 points below the walk-ons in the same sports. Recruited low-profile
athletes and female athletes also had lower SAT scores than the walk-ons
in the same sports, although walk-on low-profile and female athletes tended
to have about the same scores as non-athletes.
The report also indicated that not only do athletes come to college with
lower test scores, but they perform even worse in college than would be
expected of students with such test scores.
Although athletes do tend to graduate in higher numbers than non-athletes,
they do not at all perform as well in the classroom as non-athletes. Two-thirds
of high-profile athletes were in the bottom third of their class, and
more than one-quarter were in the bottom one-tenth of their class.
The difference was even more pronounced with recruited athletes. Three-quarters
of high-profile recruited athletes were in the bottom third of their class.
NESCAC schools include Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut College,
Hamilton College, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams.