by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jenna Robinson’s latest Martin Center column examines the academic impact of student athletes’ travel and practice schedules.
Over Thanksgiving break, when most students headed home for the holiday to catch up on sleep and maybe some homework, NC State’s basketball team traveled to the Bahamas. They were there to participate in the seventh annual Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis tournament along with seven other American teams. By the end of the three-day tournament, the Wolfpack players looked exhausted and had little to show for their efforts—they lost two of their three games.
The same can be said for most non-conference sports travel. It’s expensive, exhausting, and boasts few benefits to students or universities. The amount of travel required of students demands so much of their time that it may even harm their academic success. …
… The Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in College (GOALS) study, conducted by the NCAA in 2015, details the problem. In the study, Division I men’s basketball players reported spending 34 hours per week on athletics. FBS football players reported spending 42 hours per week on athletic activities—a full-time job. Two-thirds of Division I and II students said they spend as much or more time on athletics during the off-season as during their competitive season.
Most students surveyed were happy with those time commitments. And some students reported wanting to spend even more time in practice and organized off-season workouts.
Time for sports, though, crowds out time for class. The average Division I men’s basketball player missed 2.2 classes per week during basketball season. Twenty-one percent of basketball players missed more than three classes per week during the season. It’s no wonder that the Federal Graduation Rate for Division I men’s basketball players was only 48 percent in 2017. The rate for all students was 66 percent. …
… Despite the tension between athletic and academic commitments, student-athletes’ priorities did not include more studying time. Instead, they reported wanting to devote more time to family, work, and relaxation. Nearly two-thirds of men and three-quarters of women expressed a preference for more opportunities to visit home and family. Half of Division II and III women expressed a preference to spend more time at a job. Sixty-six percent of Division I male athletes said they preferred more time to simply relax by themselves.