Term Paper: Professional Student Athlete the Raw

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[. . .] The NCAA argued in several court cases that it does not have to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act. After months of negotiation, the Department of Justice and NCAA signed an agreement in which the NCAA agrees to consider courses with special education designation. However, three cases over the summer raised new questions about whether the NCAA truly has changed its review process.

Recently several state Attorneys General established a committee to examine NCAA practices, prompted by complaints from educators in more than two dozen states. While no one questions the legitimacy of increasing standards, the NCAA is out of its jurisdiction in dictating high school course content. As a New York Times editorial concluded, "The NCAA should be promoting educational innovation, not obstructing it."

In addition to Title IX, Proposition 48, (bylaw 14.3 in the NCAA manual) was enacted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1984-1985. Proposition 48 effectively raised eligibility standards for students seeking to play big-time college ball in their freshman year, requiring a minimum 2.0 G.P.A.on a 4.0 scale in addition to a combined score of at least 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or a score of at least 17 on the American College Testing program (ACT). (Koehler, M., January/February 1995)

On August 1, 1995 the minimum grade point average was raised to 2.5 in 13 academic courses and a SAT of 700 or ACT of 17 (1994-95 NCM Manual). The reality of the sports world for aspiring students is articulated in a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University which showed that greater than 40% of inner city black high school athletes aspire to play a professional sport, although statistics indicate that seven one-thousandths of one percent will ever achieve the pros, and further, many will never graduate from high school. In addition, for the few that reach the heights of the pros, their career span will average a few years, after which they will be forced to examine the career choices that were before them prior to entering sports as a profession. Keohler asserts that it is the coaches and school counselors that can steer students in the right direction regarding perspective in sports. The National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics is the front line to the student's ear, whose responsibility is to help the students assimilate the sometimes conflicting information he or she is exposed to.

In 1927, a few years after the founding of the NFL, coach Amos Alonzo Stagg stated: "The day boys start playing football with one eye on the college and the other on professional careers, the sport will become a moral liability to the schools." Koehler added the interpretation that, had he said the day boys play sports with one eye oh high school and the other on college scholarships, sports will become an educational liability to the schools. (Koehler, M., January/February 1995)

A study conducted in 1993 examined background information and graduation rates for two groups of student athletes over a period of five years; the first group consisted of 3,380 NCM Division I student athletes in 1984 and 2,435 athletes in 1985. Between the two periods, Proposition 48 was implemented. The study was designed to gauge whether higher achievement at the high school level affected college achievement. The resulting data set showed that the group following Proposition 48 had a five-year graduation rate of 56.6% compared with 48% for the pre-Proposition 48 group. The resulting conclusion is that higher academic standards resulted in higher graduation rates.

Concern over the graduation rates of athletes contributed to the Student Right to Know and Campus Security Act of 1990, which requires institutions to publish graduation rates not just for the student body, but for athletes as well. Once these statistics were available separately, many colleges and universities began to keep track of graduation rates according to demographic typing. (Nathan, 1998)

In addition to legislative initiatives and mandates by governing bodies, states have enacted some of their own reforms concerning athletics and academics. The most notable examples include:

Effective in 1988-1989, the state of Alabama's state athletic association established a requirement which stated that any junior or senior high school student whose average score fell below a 70 would be barred from participating in extracurricular activities.

California school districts maintaining one or more schools serving children in any of grades 7-12 must adopt an eligibility policy that such children will be eligible to take part in extracurricular and co curricular activities only after "satisfactory educational progress in the previous grading period." Satisfactory educational progress" includes, but is not limited to, "at least a 2.0 grade point average in all enrolled courses on a 4.0 scale.

Colorado's state high school activities association offers districts the option of creating more demanding eligibility requirements, but demands that students take at least five courses and be failing no more than one, or that they pass at least five classes.

Florida requires students to "maintain a grade point average of 1.5 on a 4.0 scale, or its equivalent, and must pass five subjects for the grading period immediately preceding participation." Students not required to attend a full day of school "must maintain a 1.5 grade point average and pass each class for which he or she is enrolled."

Hawaii's Department of Education requires students to have at least a 2.0 grade point average in order to be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities. (ECS, 1998)

An article published in the Journal of College Student Development expressed the results of a study of 952 non-athletes as compared to athletes (Hood, 1992). The study concluded that the male athletes who generated revenue for the institution through winning sports events had lower high school GPAs and ACT composite scores. However, when football was removed from the equation, both athletes and non-athletes achieved similar college grades. For the females, the scores were similar when compared to like matches, but lower when compared to random groups of women.

Literature Review

There has been considerable debate regarding the benefits and drawbacks of high school athletics, particularly with regard to the relationship between athletic success and academic success. The following section will compare and contrast existing data on the subject, the point-of-views presented, the research conducted, the statistics available, the methodologies and analyses used to arrive at such conclusions, and the soundness of the data set forth. A case has been made by researchers which establishes the benefit of sports programs at the high school level. Benefits include lower dropout rates, increased socialization skills, increased school involvement and decreased troublesome behavior.

The Professional Student Athlete

In order to assess the relationship between athletics and academics, it is important to distinguish between the level of focus on the part of the student in either genre. A serious athlete will be swayed more towards spending his or her time in the athletic arena whereas a student who engages in athletics as an extracurricular activity may have a more divided view of time management. Statistics compiled by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCM) reveal the following facts about high school students who transition to sports as a profession: (Peltier, G.L. & Laden, R., April/May 1999)

Nationwide, approximately one million students play high school football and one half million play basketball.

Of the pool of athletes nationally, approximately 150 will play for the NFL and 50 will make it to the NBA.

The odds of a high-school football player making it to the pros are about 6,000 to 1: the odds for a high-school basketball player- 10,000 to 1.

It seems that when the student athlete considers the sport a profession to attain, then academics are likely to suffer against the competing demands of a rigorous schedule. For those students aspiring to beat the odds, the stakes are higher. The seriousness of the effort takes on a deeper tone. The importance of the time spent devoted to the practice of sport is multiplied exponentially. The attitude of the parents, coaches, and some teachers and school administrators will all turn priorities towards athletic success over academic success when it is clear that the student sees athletics as a vehicle to pay for college and as follow-on career. Generally students falling into this category are exceptional athletes who understand the highly competitive nature of their aspirations. It is also students in this category who are most likely to be forced to make the trade-off between the time necessary to achieve a successful athletic position and the time required to succeed academically.

The Knight Foundation's Report estimates that the demands of "high-powered" sports programs require a commitment of approximately thirty hours per week to the sport. (Knight,1991) The Knight estimates have been refuted by others who claim the time requirement is actually higher; up to fifty or sixty hours a week in-season including travel and eighteen… [END OF PREVIEW]

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