«This study examined whether the academic success, specifically the grade-point average, NCAA progress-towards-degree, and freshman to sophomore ...»
Over the past 20 years many studies (Astin 1993, Levitz & Noel, 1989) have indicated that first- year experience courses improve student engagement to campus and assist students in their transition from high school to college. During this time- frame there has also been an increased focus on providing additional academic support to students identified as special populations, including student-athletes (Jordan & Denson, 1990; Kennedy, 2007). Several schools not only offer special academic support services, but they have designed first-year experience courses with curriculum specifically designed fo r student-athletes (Albitz, 2002; Curry & Maniar, 2004; Tebbe & Petrie, 2006). Others have not altered the curriculum for student-athletes, but have created course sections that are entirely populated by student-athletes. Little research has been conducted to determine the effectiveness of first- year experience courses populated exclusively by student-athletes. The research published in this general area addresses the program evaluations of the curriculum for student-athlete specific first-year experience courses, but has not addressed the success of student-athletes participating in first-year experience courses exclusively populated by student-athletes versus stud ent-athletes participating in first-year experience courses that include the general student body.
The general research question asks what was the impact of a first- year experience course on student-athletes’ academic success who participated in a such a course populated exclusively by student-athletes and taught by athletic-academic personnel (Group A) compared to student-athletes in an integrated first-year experience course populated by the general student body and taught by a faculty member not associated with the athletic-academic support staff (Group B).
The research questions below address the key areas that are related to this overall
1. What impact did participating in a student-athlete specific first-year experience course have on maintaining NCAA eligibility and meeting the NCAA progress-towarddegree completion guidelines after completing the first-year?
2. Were there significant mean differences in the grade-point average at the conclusion of the first semester and at the conclusion of the first academic year between Group A and Group B?
3. Were there significant differences in the percentage of student-athletes retained at the conclusion of the first academic year between Group A and Group B?
4. Were there significant mean differences in academic performance as measured by grade-point average between Groups A and B among student-athletes by sport, gender and ethnicity who participated in a first-year experience course?
5. Were there significant differences in the percentage of student-athletes retained at the conclusion of the first academic year between Groups A and B among studentathletes by sport, gender, and ethnicity who participated in a first-year experience course?
Despite the comprehensive body of research on the impact of first- year experience courses on academic success (i.e., grade-point average, retention) (Cuseo, 1991; Levitz & Noel, 1989; Reason, Terenzini, & Domingo, 2006; Upcraft & Gardner,
1989) very little is known about the effectiveness of first- year experience courses populated exclusively by student-athletes. Several program evaluations have been conducted on individual student-athlete first-year experience courses (Albitz, 2002; Curry & Maniar, 2004; Tebbe & Petrie, 2006), but the present study is the first to explore the differences in the academic performance of student-athletes participating in a first- year experience course that included the general student body and those student-athletes participating in a first- year experience course exclusively populated by student-athletes.
The NCAA is continuing to increase the satisfactory academic progress standards and institutions need to establish best practice standards relating to student-athletes in firstyear experience courses. The findings of the present study will assist NCAA institutions, professionals working with student-athletes, and instructors of first-year experience programs to develop best practices in the delivery of first-year experience courses to student-athletes.
Academic Progress Rate (APR)—According to the 2007-08 NCAA Division I Handbook, APR shall include a calculation that accounts for currently enrolled student-athletes receiving institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability or, for those institutions or teams that do not offer athletics aid, recruited student-athletes who: (a) on or after the varsity team’s first date of competition in the championship segment are listed on the varsity team’s roster; or (b) have exhausted eligibility and returned to the institution as a fifth- year student to complete a baccalaureate degree. The rate shall account for the institution’s success in retaining and graduating all such student-athletes. (NCAA, 2007a, p.
363) Academic Success—Defined by the researcher as the first-year persistence and grade point average of students in the study CHAMPS/Life Skills—CHAMPS is an acronym for Challenging Athletes Minds for Personal Success. According to Bell (2003), “The CHAMPS/Life Skills program focuses on five commitments that are meant to enhance the quality of the student-athlete experience within the university setting” (p. 3).
First-year experience course—A course for first-year students designed to assist in the transition to college.
High Profile sport—Defined by the researcher in this study as men’s basketball, men’s football, and women’s basketball.
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)—The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a “... diverse, voluntary, unincorporated Association of fouryear colleges and universities, conferences, affiliated associations and other educational institutions ” (NCAA, 2007a, p. 18).
Progress-toward-degree completion—The NCAA defines continuing satisfactory
progress for student-athletes completing their first-year as:
• having earned 24 semester hours for the academic year
• having earned 18 credits earned during the fall and spring semesters
• earning a minimum grade-point average of 1.8
• earning a minimum of six credits per academic term. (NCAA, 2007a, p. 147) Student -athlete—According to Walter Byers (1995, p. 69) the term student-athlete was ‘coined’ by the NCAA in the 1950s to counter the threat of the newly implemented playfor-pay, grant- in-aid athletic scholarship policy could result in NCAA athletes being considered paid employees by Workers Compensation Boards and the courts. The term was immediately embedded in all NCAA rules and interpretations as a mandated substitute for terms such as players and athletes.
Several limitations could impact the generalizability of this research. Although the curriculum, learning objectives, contact hours, and course format were the same for all of the first-year experience courses discussed in this study, the study could not be controlled for the difference in instructor type. The independent variable in this study included the students and instructors in each individual section. The instructor of each individual section could not be controlled because the same instructors did not teach the first-year experience courses that included the general student body and the first-year experience courses exclusively populated by student-athletes.
The researcher was involved in creating the curriculum for all of the first-year experience courses addressed in this study.
The long-term goal of this study is to improve student services for student-athletes through improving the delivery of their first-year experience course. The structure of this dissertation is as follows. Chapter I describes the problem. Chapter II provides a thorough and comprehensive review of the literature relating to first- year experience courses, student retention theory, and academic athletic enhancement programming for studentathletes. Chapter III contains the methods used to gather and analyze the data and provides a detailed description of the research design. Chapter IV contains the findings and results of the study, while Chapter V discusses the conclusions and significance of the study along with recommendations for future research.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether the academic success, specifically the grade-point average and freshman to sophomore retentio n rates, of student athletes was influenced by participating in a first-year experience course populated exclusively by student-athletes and taught by athletic-academic personnel (Group A) compared to student-athletes in an integrated first-year experience course populated by the general student body and taught by a faculty member not associated with the athletic-academic support staff (Group B).
Conflict between athletics and academics in post-secondary education is not new.
Thelin (1994) describes the relationship as “American higher education’s ‘peculiar institution’” (p. 1). As early as the 1890s educational leaders questioned the academic integrity of ‘tramp athletes’ who were not ‘bona- fide’ students (Ferris, Finster, & McDonald, 2004). In 1929, the Carnegie Report for the Advancement of Teaching reported on the under-prepared students, the materialism of athletics departments, illegal recruiting tactics, overzealous boosters; the myth of amateurism, and academic fraud (Shulman & Bowen, 2001).
The 2007-08 NCAA Manual (2007a) defines the basic purpose of the NCAA as The competitive athletics programs of member institutions are designed to be a vital part of the educational system. A basic purpose of this Association is to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body and, by doing so, retain a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports.
(p. 13) The organization now known as the NCAA was formed in 1906. The earliest eligibility rules were simple and clear.
No student shall represent a college or university in any intercollegiate game or contest who is not taking a full schedule of work... who has at any time received, either directly or indirectly, money, or any other consideration... who has competed for any prize money against a professional... who has participated in intercollegiate games or contests during four previous years... No student who has been registered as a member of any other college or university shall participate in any intercollegiate game or contest until he shall have been a student of the institution which he represents at least one college year. (Falla, 1981, p. 25) Legislation for determining continued eligibility was not adopted until the 1940s (Crowley, 2006). In 1946 the NCAA adopted the “Principles for the Conduct of Intercollegiate Athletics,” also known as the “Sanity Code” (Kelo, 2005). Although the “Sanity Code” was broad and still leaned towards home-rule, the principles set forth were to adhere to the definition of amateurism, to restrict financial aid for athletic ability, and to hold student-athletes to the same academic standards as the student body (Kelo, 2005).
Athletic scholarships were forbidden until 1956 (Falla, 1981). Acceptance of this concept
came in an official interpretation from the NCAA:
Financial aid awarded by an institution to a student-athlete should confo rm to the rules and regulations of the awarding institution and the institution’s conference... but in the event such aid exceeds commonly accepted educational expenses for the undergraduate period of the recipient, it shall be considered ‘pay’ for participation. (Falla, 1981, p. 149) The “Sanity Code” was in place for the next twenty years. Under the direction of Walter Byers, during the 1950s and 1960s, the NCAA charted tremendous growth, thanks in large part to increased college enrollments, African-American and female participation, and increased television coverage (Kennedy, 2007).