Do College Athletes Cluster Into Less Rigorous Majors?

On November 19, USA Today published an investigative story, “Athletes guided toward ‘beating the system.'” The article was the cover story for the 2-day special report that examined whether athletes are clustering in majors in disproportionate numbers from the student body; the extent to which athletics advisers guide athletes into ‘easier majors’ for eligibility and/or time commitment purposes; and whether academic clustering is an ‘unintended consequence’ of tougher eligibility standards and new team accountability benchmarks.

A follow up story by reviewed the USA Today’s article from the context of the higher education community, and published responses from college adminsitrators.

The USA Today cover story mentions several comments Paul Hewitt made at the Knight Commission’s June meeting:

“There’s a mixed message being sent out here” about the importance of academics in college sports, Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Paul Hewitt said in June before the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics…

Hewitt, the Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach, bluntly articulated many coaches’ view of the “unintended consequences” of the APR system at the Knight Commission meeting in June. He said then that when an NCAA official came to the Atlantic Coast Conference meetings four years ago to discuss the APR system, “almost every coach said: ‘You understand what you’re basically telling us. We’re going to encourage our kids to take the easiest path to eligibility.’

“So if I’m at a Georgia Tech, I’m not going to tell a young man he can’t major in engineering,” Hewitt said. “But I certainly will counsel him before he takes that first class that … if you decide to go down this road and for some reason you find it harder than you expected and you decide to change your major, you’re probably more than likely going to end up being ineligible” for sports.