Evaluating Academic Success in Student Athletes:
A Literature Review
Scott R. Stansbury
Department of Education and Human Services
Edited by Ray Heitzmann
In the world of collegiate athletics, student athletes across the country use the opportunities provided to them to become the future professional athletes, teachers, coaches, and business leaders of our world. But at what cost to the education of these student athletes has this business atmosphere become? As Division I and II institutions continue to provide scholarships and other benefits to these students, the question is whether they are receiving a quality education. Studies have shown that participation in extra-curricular activities such as athletics (Hood et al., 1992) improves overall student academic performance. However, it must be noted that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has instituted numerous policies and propositions (NCAA Division I Manual, 2003) in regards to “redshirting” athletes for academic or medical reasons. However, no concrete research has been done to determine if keeping an athlete out of competition during their freshman year, while allowing them to continue to practice with the team (considered an “academic redshirt”) would have positive or negative effects on their academic performance during that first year. This literature review includes research-based studies that evaluate the effect that athletic participation has on the academic performance of intercollegiate student athletes. The goal of this literature review is to provide a substantial basis of factual information that would be used to support a study evaluating the effects that “redshirting” would have on academic performance.
Sports fans across the country are not unfamiliar with the business atmosphere introduced into the world of intercollegiate athletics. Whether it is evident in the college football bowl series where major corporations sponsor each game, or in the large amount of money that the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament draws, the business that Division I college athletics has become raises many questions in regards to the academic stability of the student athletes that participate at that level, as well as the athletic program in general. Research shows that participation in extra-curricular activities such as athletics improves student academic performance across the board. So then why do we question the academic performance of student athletes? The point is that student athletes are highly scrutinized individuals on college campuses today, and many times, their behavior in and out of the classroom reflects on the university as a whole. Therefore, it
should be a priority to evaluate and analyze the academic performance of these high-profile individuals and determine whether or not changes need to be made to the academic standards set forth by each institution and the NCAA. The goal of this paper is to discuss previous literature that questions whether academic performance of the college athlete can be improved, and by what means it can be enhanced. The intent of this paper is to also introduce to the reader the terms of a “redshirt” and an “injury” to enhance the reader’s understanding of the basis of this literature review and the proposed research study that would follow, addressing whether “redshirt” freshman can improve academic performance compared to “true” freshman.
What Is a “Redshirt?”
A “redshirt” is defined by the National Collegiate Athletic Association Eligibility Committee as a student athlete who does not participate in competition in any sport for one complete academic year (August through May). An example of this would be an athlete who qualifies for and attends a four-year college or university and only practices with the team they join, but does not participate in activities against outside competition. Because they do not compete in any games outside of intersquad...
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