Student athletes and their families have always known it is not easy balancing the demands of performing at a high level in collegiate sports while keeping up with one’s grades.

To begin with, student athletes must meet the following NCAA requirements to participate in sports and/or receive an athletics scholarship during their first year:

Graduate from high school; Complete these 14 core courses:

- 4 years of English

- 2 years of math (algebra 1 or higher)

- 2 years of natural or physical science (including one year of lab science if offered by your high school)

- 1 extra year of English, math or natural or physical science

- 2 years of social science

- 3 years of extra core courses (from any category above, or foreign language, nondoctrinal religion or philosophy);  

Earn a minimum required grade-point average in your core courses; and

Earn a combined SAT or ACT sum score that matches your core course grade-point average on the NCAA test score sliding scale … for example, a 2.400 core-course grade-point average needs an 860 SAT).

 

Student athletes who meet these requirements can practice or compete for their college or university during their first year of college; can receive an athletics scholarship during their first year of college; and can play four seasons in their sport if they maintain their eligibility from year to year.

 

There are now more than 400,000 students athletes in the United States and the numbers climb each year.

The NCAA is increasingly aware of the stress and challenges student athletes face.  From May 25-29, they’ll be hosting a conference in Orlando, FL for more than 700 student-athletes to discuss issues that affect them on their campuses and in their communities.  The conference which used to be called the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Conference is now known as the Development Conference.

 

According to Robert Vowels, vice-president of education services at the NCAA:

the conference will help student-athletes find their voice to shape their future and make a commitment to lead on campus and in the community.

“With the new focus of the Development Conference, we’ll also place more emphasis on enhancing the leadership skills of the student-athletes, which not only helps them in their academic and athletic setting, but also better prepares them for life experiences after they graduate,” said Vowels.

Student-athletes will discuss topics such as game environment, gender equity, religion in sport, social networking, EKG testing, mental health and nutrition. They will also discuss division-specific issues, create dialogue surrounding possible solutions to division-specific issues and discuss potential career direction.  

 


Candace Parker, forward, Tennessee Vols – Academic All-American

As student athletes gather in Orlando, it might be helpful to put the problems facing college sports in perspective. A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor highlights some alarming trends: “College sports programs lose money and fail to educate their athletes.”

Problem One: colleges are spending an enormous amount of money on sports. You might ask if this money could be better spent on purely educational programs. According to the Monitor:

One NCAA report on revenues and expenses of big-time athletic programs (Division I) for the first time shows that high-profile athletics are, on balance, a money-losing proposition. In other words, they’re a significant drain on these educational institutions.

While sports expenses at these schools rose 23 percent from 2004 to 2006, revenues (ticket sales, etc.) expanded only 16 percent. Just 17 of the 300-plus sports programs made a profit. All but one of those were among a few high-profile schools that regularly go to bowl games.

What’s more, schools subsidize about a quarter of their athletics. For the non-bowl-eligible, lower-profile schools, their budgets were 70 percent subsidized.

Just how “big-time” is college sports? The report didn’t name names, but it did say one school spent more than $101 million on its sports programs in fiscal 2006.

Problem Two: Student athletes aren’t doing as well in the classroom as they are on the field. According to the Monitor:

A second NCAA study asks how athletes perform in the classroom, even as the NCAA stiffens its penalties for schools that fail to meet a minimum standard. That standard, called an Academic Progress Rate (APR), takes into account athletes’ grades and graduation rates.

The NCAA’s report shows that only about 60 percent of athletes at the nation’s Division I schools graduate within six years. Among high-profile, revenue-producing sports programs, about 2 out of 5 schools had basketball teams that ranked below the APR threshold, and about 1 of 3 baseball and football teams failed to make that minimum standard.

I put a picture of Candace Parker up above because she is a shining example of the successful student athlete. She is an extraordinary basketball player who led her Tennessee team to the 2007 NCAA championship. But, even better, Parker earned a 3.35 grade-point average in sports management.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be blogging about the challenges and successes of the student athlete. Join in and check back often.