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Matthew Krawczyk
English 1103
How does being a student athlete affect performance in the classroom?
By: Matthew Krawczyk
UNC Charlotte
English 1103
Matthew Krawczyk
English 1103
Introduction: I am very interested in sports, and was a high school golfer throughout my high
school career. My discourse community is my high school golf team and I am going to look at
the effects of being on a sports team has on academic performance in the classroom. A student
athlete, as defined by the Oregon legal glossary, is a participant in an organized competitive
sport sponsored by the educational institution in which he or she is enrolled. Student athletes
play a large role in representing their schools on the playing field. However, one thing that is
often overlooked in this era of multi-million dollar profits is the toll playing a sport in school has
on the student's academic performance. Student athletes have a hard time balancing their
lives on the field and in the classroom, which ultimately affects their GPA. Student athletes
make an enormous commitment to the school once they decide to become student athletes.
Student athletes are required to balance their lives on the field with their lives in the classroom,
which is often very difficult. I am going to research the GPA's of student athletes versus the
overall GPA's of college students around the country, and compare the results.
Most college students are admitted to college based on their potential to benefit from an
institution's programs and educational opportunities, but many student-athletes are admitted for
their potential to provide benefits for the institutions (Hildenbrand 1). This is a sad statement,
but it is true. Colleges rely on sports to spread their popularity and generate revenue to support
the college's expansion or academic causes. This can be seen in the world of college football
today. Television has provided colleges with a spectacle for which they try to become the most
popular school for a given sport. There are millions of dollars involved with college sports and
the athletes receive compensation in the form of scholarships for their hard work on the field.
However, many former college athletes and critics believe the student athletes should be paid for
their performance on the field. This has been a hot topic in college football over the past few
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English 1103
years due to many schools being put on probation and suspension because their athletes received
improper benefits for their performance on the playing field. But with all of this talk going on
about payment, the most important aspect of these athletes is being overlooked, and that is their
performance in the classroom. The purpose of going to college is obtaining a degree and
learning information and skills that will one day lead to a successful career. Student athletes in
the revenue-generating sports at some of the most successful universities are rarely expected to
be stellar in the classroom, as long as they display their skills on the playing field (Hildenbrand
1). This is a strong contradiction to the main purpose of college in my opinion, which is to
achieve the highest grades possible. Many other people would view college differently than I do.
For instance a basketball phenom who has been hailed as the next best thing, may view college
as a bad thing by requiring him to play for free for a year, instead of being paid to play for a
professional team.
One of the sources I used was an article that was published in the University of Iowa's
campus newspaper. The article follows a Hawkeye football player as he manages his hectic
schedule that comes with being an athlete in college. I used this article in my exploration
because it is a one-on-one interview with a young student athlete that chronicles his everyday life
and makes it available for the public to read. The article is titled "Athlete first, student second",
which I thought was an interesting way of describing someone who is a college athlete. This title
led me to become curious as to what the daily life of an athlete in college entailed that called for
the title to be written in such a manner. The young man the article is about is named Kevonte
Martin-Manley, and the article picks up with him on Halloween night 2012. Rather than going
out to parties like the majority of college students do on Halloween, Kevonte is bowling with
three of his team mates. He states that this is the only thing "that doesn't have to do with football
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English 1103
of school" for him. Based on interviews this paper conducted, it was found that the average
Hawkeye athlete devotes at least 30 hours a week to their sports activities. This is not even
counting the time they spend doing homework and studying. This is eye-opening for me,
because I had a tryout to play on the golf team here at Charlotte, and could not find a way to
balance my schoolwork with my golf practice, so I ultimately decided to hold off on the golf
until next year when I develop superior study skills. Kevonte is also quoted as saying "they say
you're here for school... But if you break down our schedule, how can you expect an athlete's No.
1 focus to be on school?" However, another point that is brought up in this article is how student
athletes are able to become leaders around campus in spite of their status as a student athlete.
For example, Nile Kinnick, Iowa's lone Heisman trophy winner, was also a member of Phi
Kappa Psi fraternity and the student-body president his senior year (Martin 1). This is a very
important point that instigated further research into this topic.
The next source that was used, was an article titled "Academic Motivation and the
Student Athlete." This article was written by graduate students at UC Berkeley in California.
The abstract of this article states that "the achievement motivation of 361 Division 1 athletes was
studied." University student athletes present an apparent motivational contradiction (Simons
151). This is the opening sentence of the article and it highlights how athletes in college are very
motivated to do well in their respective sports, but lack that same motivation in the classroom.
This is a very accurate statement, as can be seen in the amount of time student athletes spend
practicing their sport compared to the time they spend studying. Student athletes devote upwards
of 25 hour a week when their sport is in season, miss numerous classes for university-sanctioned
athletic competitions, and deal with fatigue and injuries as a result from their devotion (Simons
151). The article also states that "female and nonrevenue athletes (sports other than football and
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English 1103
basketball) seem more willing to transfer their motivation from their sport to the classroom,
which can be seen by their superior academic success." The participants of this study were 361
student athletes enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley during the 1993-1994
academic year (Simons 153). Almost two thirds of the surveyed athletes were males (63.3%)
(Simons 153). Of the student athletes, 20.8% participated in revenue sports and 79.2%
participated in nonrevenue sports. The athletes were questioned on major categories such as:
background factors, cognitive factors, and motivation. Background factors included
demographics and revenue/nonrevenue sport status (Simons 154). The cognitive factors
included high school GPAs, SAT scores, and the cumulative university GPA. The results of
these questions allowed the researchers to classify the athletes as: success-oriented, over strivers,
failure-avoiders, and failure-acceptors. The results of this study show that failure-avoiders and
failure-acceptors were poorer academic performers than success-oriented student athletes and
over strivers. The point of using this source in my paper is to show that college is a lot about
motivation and not necessarily how smart one may be. If you put in the long hours and study
your hardest, you can achieve academic success. This is an idea that needs to be relayed to
student-athletes more in my opinion, because not all of these athletes are going to make it in the
pros, but they will need to be able to support their families in the future.
The next source that was used was an academic paper that was written by Kasandra J.
Hildenbrand, while working on her Doctor of Philosophy. The paper is titled "An examination of
college student athletes' academic achievement." The article states that a typical student is
admitted to college in order to benefit from the institution, whereas student athletes are admitted
for their ability to benefit the institution (Hildenbrand 70). This conflict of interest has been in
higher education since athletics first became a fixture among colleges and universities
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(Hildenbrand 70). Athletes are also underprepared when they enter college and are not expected
to excel in the classroom, as long as they display their talents to the thousands of fans of their
respective school. The article states that research on the academic implications of those
participating in college athletics are mixed because of the amount of variables involved in the
investigation. This study tried to look at ACT composite score of student athletes and determine
if this had any correlation in the college GPA of student athletes. What was found is that there
was a correlation between ACT score and college GPA, but once the athlete status was applied to
the data, there was no significant variation. The fact that no statistical significance was found
when the athletic status was applied is consistent with what Shulman and Bowen found in their
book The Game of Life, which was published in 2001(Hildenbrand 71). The authors
hypothesized that their lack of statistical significance was due to the low number of comparable
nonathletic peers to athletes when conducting their statistical analysis. This is true because
athletes are unique with their physical abilities and there are not many non athletes that possess
this same ability, or they would also be student athletes. Also student athletes made up such a
small percentage of the student body graduating that year, 1-2%. This small sample size likely
led to these findings.
Next this article looked at the percent graduation rates among student athletes at Kansas
State University from 1993-1997. The results were consistent with the above in that there was
not any statistical significance that was found between the graduation rates of athletes versus the
general student population. The results of this study have positive implications for those
concerned about the academic progress of college students (Hildenbrand 76). Athletes are
graduating at similar, and sometimes higher, rates than non-athletes, indicating that participation
on athletic trams does not affect college graduating GPA.
Matthew Krawczyk
English 1103
The next article that was used was published in the Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate
Athletics. It is titled “Do Athletic Scholarships Impact Academic Success of Intercollegiate
Student-Athletes: An Exploratory Investigation” and was written by Paul R. Milton, Dana
Freeman, and Lisa M. Williamson. The purpose of this study was to identify whether athletic
scholarships play a role in academic success by determining if there was a difference in
academic performance between athletic scholarship student-athletes and on-athletic scholarship
student athletes as measured by cumulative collegiate GPA (Milton, Freeman, and Williamson
329). The evaluation of this source led me to many statistics on GPA of college athletes which
broadened my knowledge and reversed my initial thought that student-athletes had GPAs that are
far inferior to the general student population. Understanding the academic challenges facing
collegiate student-athletes is a complex task (Milton, Freeman, and Williamson 330). However,
scholarly research, and articles like this, are helping universities better serve their athletes and
ultimately improve their cumulative GPAs. One traditional assumption about college athletes is
that they perform better during the season of competition compared to outside the season of
competition. This is thought to happen because the athlete has a more structured environment
during the season meeting with coaches and advisors that are making sure they are remaining
eligible for competition. However, a 2008 study involving over 65,000 student athletes found
the opposite to be the case (Milton, Freeman, and Williamson 330). It was once believed that
student-athletes could benefit from longer playing seasons, but this data does not support the idea
(Milton, Freeman, and Williamson 330). Another point that is brought up in the article relates to
football players and how some of them succeed in their academic studies, while others become
detached and fall academically. Lang, Dunham, and Alpert reported that high school GPA, a
repeated year in high school, academic motivation, a history of trouble, mother’s education level,
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and whether the athlete graduated from a private high school were variables that predicted the
success of athletes in college, or the lack thereof. In a 2006 study by Umbach, Palmer, Kuh and
Hannah found that male student athletes achieved slightly lower GPAs than their non-athlete
male counterparts, while, conversely, female students had GPAs similar to female non-athletes.
A private Division II college in rural Ohio was the subject of a 2011 study that evaluated 455
student-athletes. The results of this study indicate a significant difference in the GPA of
scholarship versus non-scholarship athletes at the university. Student-athletes who were awarded
an athletic scholarship were more likely to have a GPA of 3.0 or higher than the student athletes
that were not on scholarship, 33.4% compared to 19.7%. This indicates that if an athlete is only
scholarship, they are more likely to put more effort into their schoolwork because they are
receiving expensive schooling for free or reduced rates and do not want to lose that scholarship.
These scholarship student athletes also realize that they are given an opportunity to graduate
from college with little to no student debt; something that it not taken lightly due to the cost of a
college education. That motivation ultimately drives these athletes to performing better in the
classroom. This study provides similar evidence to what is becoming an increasing body of
knowledge regarding intercollegiate student-athlete performance in the classroom (Milton,
Freeman, and Williamson 335). The conclusion gained from this article is that student athletes
that are on scholarship have something motivating them that walk-on athletes do not have, a
scholarship. This scholarship provides an incentive for these athletes to remain in school and
perform at their highest level in the classroom, which ultimately lead to a higher GPA.
Matthew Krawczyk
English 1103
Works Cited
Comeaux, Eddie. "Predictors of Academic Achievement among Student-Athletes in the
Revenue-Producing Sports of Men's Basketball and Football." The Sport Journal. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.
Comeaux's article outlines the substantial amount of research that has been conducted in
order to predict the academic achievement of student athletes based on demographics and
psychological variables. Explains how the environment that the athletes live in can affect
their motivation and ultimately affect the outcome of their academic achievements.
Hildenbrand, Kasandra J. "AN EXAMINATION OF COLLEGE STUDENT ATHLETES'
ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT." N.p., 2005. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.
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An academic paper that examines statistical data relating to student athletes and their test
scores, both in high school and in college. Provides statistical evidence as to if there is a
difference in the GPAs of college athletes and college students who do not play a sport.
Also analyzes the ACT scores of college athletes and determines if college athletes were
underperforming in college relative to their high school test scores.
Martin, Ian. "Athlete First, Student Second: Examining the Life of an Iowa Student-athlete - The
Daily Iowan." Athlete First, Student Second: Examining the Life of an Iowa Studentathlete. N.p., 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.
This article follows the life of a collegiate wide receiver for the University of Iowa.
Outlines the day to day life of an athlete and highlights the difficulties these athletes face
academically because of their commitment play sports for the school. Goes on to say that
the student athletes at Iowa had the same GPA of non-athletes at the school.
Milton, Paul R. "Do Athletic Scholarships Impact Academic Success of Intercollegiate." N.p.,
2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.
The purpose of this study was to identify whether athletic scholarships play a role in
academic success by determining if there was a difference in academic performance
between male and female athletic scholarship student-athletes and non-athletic
scholarship student-athletes as measured by cumulative collegiate GPA. Study found that
female student athletes had a higher GPA than their male counterparts, which led me into
more research to find the reason behind this.
Simons, Herbert D. Academic Motivation and the Student Athlete. Rep. www-gse.berkeley.edu,
Mar.-Apr. 1999. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.
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Examines the contradiction between student athletes and their strong motivation to
exceed on the field and the occasional lack of motivation they demonstrate in the
classroom. Discusses the difficulty student athletes face when trying to balance
academics with their desire to achieve athletic supremacy.
Reflection: Since the last draft that was submitted I have added 5 pages of material. My last
submission was not up to my standards and this one, while much better, it is still not completed.
I still have one source I am going to evaluate. At the time I am turning this in, I am writing on
that other source which will likely get me to around nine pages. I will then have a conclusion
that outlines my findings and wraps up my exploratory essay on the effects of being a student
athlete on your cumulative GPA in college.
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