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Back to November Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 214 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS NOVEMBER 2003

Athletic Recruitment Shutting Out Academic Performance 
Reclaiming the Game:  College Sports and Educational Values Recruited athletes are poor academic performers even at Ivy League and other highly selective colleges, according to a new book, Reclaiming the Game: College Sports and Educational Values by William Bowen and Sarah Levin.

Not only are recruited athletes at 33 elite colleges admitted with lower test scores and grade-point averages than their classmates', but they perform worse academically than other students while in college - and even worse than their high school GPAs and test scores would predict, conclude the authors, one of whom is an economist and a former president of Princeton University.

Men recruited to play Ivy League football, basketball and hockey had SAT scores averaging 165 points lower than other incoming students, and 81% of these students wound up in the bottom third of the class. So did 64% of recruited male athletes in other sports and 45% of recruited female athletes.

Unlike recruited athletes, "walk-on" athletes, musicians and legacies (who may also receive an admissions boost) perform just as well in the classroom as the general student body, if not better.

Athletic preferences have long been criticized in the context of large state universities and other less-selective colleges with big-time sports programs, which entice players with athletic scholarships and low academic requirements. The more elite colleges have tried to preserve an image of scholar-athletes, but the data show that in their desire to have winning teams they have compromised their academic standards.

Since Bowen's book The Game of Life was published two years ago touching on a similar theme, some selective colleges have cut back on athletic recruitment. Vanderbilt University went so far as to eliminate its athletic department in September. However, Bowen's and Levin's latest research indicates there is still plenty of room for reform of the current system.


 
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