Study Finds Student-Athlete Experience And Public Perception Don’t Match Up

April 9th, 2018 | by Jonathan Yates
Study Finds Student-Athlete Experience And Public Perception Don’t Match Up


Heavyweight champ Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone’s got a plan until you hit them in the mouth!”

There are many sparring about the college student-athlete experience.  Game Plan, a one-stop platform for academic and athletic services, has delivered a knockout study that is a must-read, “2018 STUDENT-ATHLETE LIFE AFTER SPORT REPORT.”  Surveying student-athletes from over 200 institutions, about two-thirds Division 1, Game Plan reports that 95.5% “…would go through the entire experience again if they could.”

Towards this, the first sentence of the KEY FINDINGS section blares out, “The overwhelming majority of respondents feel that the student-athlete experience is tremendously valuable.

This is “tremendously valuable” without receiving a salary, either.  Student-athletes realize what many can’t figure out or choose to ignore.  That is the value of their athletic scholarship is the best deal for teenagers in history and would cost millions yearly to replicate, at some programs.

As a result of this bounty, student-athletes are understandably happier than others in college, too.

About 40% of undergraduates transfer, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.  For FBS football players, it is about 4%, one-tenth as many.  The highest in Division 1 sports is around 14% for men’s soccer and women’s beach volleyball.  According to the findings from the Game Plan study, about one-quarter would go to a different college if done again.  So the great majority of players are happy with their choice of school, unlike other students.

Obviously, the student-athletes did not get the memo about how miserable they should be from being “indentured” and “exploited.”

In recent weeks alone, Stan Van Gundy, Jason Williams, Jalen Rose, Shanun King, Victoria Jackson Spence Haywood, and Mitch Albom have all weighed in, accusing the NCAA and college sports of being racist and unfair with terms thrown around like “prisoner” (King), “Jim Crow” (Jackson), (“slavery”) Haywood, and “racist” (Van Gundy).  Issued have been calls for players to boycott the NCAA tournament (Rose and Williams) and to allow student-athletes to seek sponsors (Albom) because Yale University somehow survived even though Jodie Foster acted in movies when she was an undergraduate. (Gee Mr. Albom, in the real world, think Nike, Under Armour and other entities such as the development department at the school would have something to say about players independently seeking sponsors via a “cease and desist” order from a law firm hand-delivered by a process server?)  No one boycotted March Madness either, with all enthusiastically playing in The Dance, just like Rose and Williams did when they were at Michigan and Duke. (As Bill Walton said, its always minor surgery when it’s on someone else!)

The study does deal with college students, so there are areas of displeasure. (What are the odds!)

Much of that has to do with career services.  About half chose their major and found a job without outside guidance or direction.  Going from a student-athlete to the real world was tough for 44.1% who “struggled having lost their sport as a competitive outlet”; 35.2% who “struggled having lost their identity as an athlete”; and 28.35 who “felt a lack of support for mentorship during the transition.”  (All the athletes in my class at Iowa had to complain about was that the guacamole from the fueling station was not “chunky enough.”)

No matter how strong the support structure at the school, many of those transition challenges are inevitable for a competitive player after they leave sports with more now being done in these areas for those student-athletes who responsibly avail themselves of the available resources, such as finishing off one or two graduate degrees while on athletic scholarship.

There is a nice balance in college sports.  Nearly everyone is pleased with their student-athlete experience in college, as the Game Plan report reveals.  And on my show, The Culture of Sports, no one interviewed has ever reported of knowing of anyone who has ever turned down an athletic scholarship to graduate nearly $40,000.00 in debt like the average student, instead.  Something obviously is working in college sports as student-athletes are pleased both coming and going (now those are long odds, indeed!)  Much of the thanks here goes to athletic directors and their staffs for instituting and continually improving programs unprecedented in how well student-athletes are treated.

The “2018 STUDENT-ATHLETE LIFE AFTER SPORT REPORT” provides the research in this area, and for that, it is greatly appreciated!

Jonathan Yates About Jonathan Yates
Jonathan Yates spent much of his career working for Members of Congress in a variety of press and legislative posts. Positions he has held working for Members of Congress and state legislators include Chief of Staff, General Counsel, Legislative Director, Press Secretary, and Legislative Assistant. His journalistic work has appeared in such periodicals as The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Investor's Business Daily, and TheStreet, among others. He has degrees from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown University Law Center; and has also matriculated at the U.S. Naval War College and The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Jonathan also hosts The Culture of Sports You can follow Jonathan Yates on Twitter at @politicsports13

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