Student athletes tend to struggle with academics

Many student-athletes are required to have several books to succeed academically. (John Liu/ Creative Commons)

Many student athletes are required to have several books to succeed academically.(John Liu/ Creative Commons)

When continuing education getting caught up in the love of the game, whatever game that may be, can have its setbacks in academic success. In many cases student athletes tend to focus more on their athletics than their academics, and it shows in their testing and grade point average.

Academic success is important to The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and many institutions, therefore, every school has certain criteria student athletes must meet to be eligible to play sports. It is unacceptable for these students to let their GPA fall below these standards. In many schools it is required to maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher.

The NCAA is a membership-driven organization dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes and equipping them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life. According to student-athletes must be committed to academic achievement and the pursuit of a degree. Member institutions in each division create academic standards to that division’s goals.

The New York Times conducted a study to show the differences in grade-point averages among students from 84 NCAA Divisions III colleges and universities. The analysis showed that male non-athletes earned an average GPA of 3.04, walk-on male athletes earned 2.97 and recruited male athletes were down to 2.84.

When the study turned to women the numbers were higher and had less of a gap between those surveyed. Non-athlete women averaged 3.24 GPA, walk-on women were at 3.22, and recruited women athletes lowered slightly to 3.18.

The average GPA for athletes varies depending on the school, sport and gender. There are trends in the average GPA for the cumulative team of every sport. According to, students that are in the more competitive and popular sports like basketball and football tend to earn lower grades than other athletes.

Mary Willingham, a reading specialist at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, stated to The News & Observer, that 60 percent of the university’s football and basketball players read below the eighth-grade level and eight to 10 percent read below a third-grade level. Though this is not the case for all schools, other universities are taking measures to make sure this situation does not happen on their campus.

Panos Papadopoulos, chair of the Academic Senate said in interview with Mercury News, currently, between 50 and 62 percent of football players are admitted in Cal schools despite having a GPA below 3.0. This is going to change by the 2017-18 school year, they will require at least 80 percent of incoming athletes at to have a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Though this requirement will not apply to Saddleback, seven of the 10 athletic teams achieved high GPA’s for the fall semester. These teams earned a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, an accomplishment that Saddleback is proud to have obtained.

“Having seven of our 10 teams achieve a 3.0 cumulative team GPA during the fall semester is truly remarkable and unprecedented in community college athletics,” Saddleback Athletic Director Tony Lipold said in an interview with Saddleback’s website staff. “As an athletic program, we have worked hard to create a culture of success both on and off the field and the commitment from the college, the staff, the coaches, and the student-athletes is the key to their accomplishment.”

The women’s golf team had the highest GPA with 3.44, next was the women’s water polo with 3.27, women’s cross country earned 3.25 and women’s soccer just below that with 3.22. Men’s cross country, women’s and men’s basketball teams also reached 3.0 or higher. With that said, nine of the 10 teams from the fall, raised their grade-point averages from the previous year.

At Saddleback, students on the athletic teams are required to spend a certain amount of hours in the learning lab, studying, doing homework or somehow attributing to their academic success. The importance of their focus in the classroom and on the field is constantly reinforced.

There are many articles and such stating the negative affects playing college sports has on how well a student does in the classroom. As well as the idea that an athlete receives special treatment from their instructors. The interesting part is that being a student-athlete has its own motivations for doing well in school.

According to Nick Robinson of Global Post, approximately 80 percent of NCAA Division I athletes graduate from college. The vast majority of athletes stay in school and ultimately complete degrees. The NCAA’s data shows that non-athletes have a graduation rate of only 63 percent.

This suggest that while athletics does have an impact on a student’s academics, it does not define whether or not a student will succeed in their college education.