Study shows lower GPAs for D-III athletes

On average, student athletes in Division III schools have a lower grade point average than non-athletes, according to a recent study by the College Sports Project, but Allegheny athletes have conflicting thoughts on a sport’s influence on academics. 

The CSP report represents over 80 NCAA Division III colleges and universities whose mission is to treat athletes first as students and to integrate the values of the school with sports, according to the CSP website.

The study, “Academic Outcomes of Intercollegiate Athletes at NCAA Division III Institutions,” is the third annual report of a five year series funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

According to the study, the 26 percent who play sports of the 83,729 students analyzed can have a GPA difference of up to .2 lower than non-athletes on a 4.0 scale.

Starting quarterback T.J. Salopek, ’11, said he has a better GPA during football season.

“My rigorous football schedule and the demands it places upon me force me to be very organized and to stay on top of my schoolwork during the season,” he said.

According to the study, 22 percent of recruited athletes who played a sport their freshman year do not participate in athletics their sophomore year, and although he acknowledges some football players who chose to focus on academics instead of football, Salopek never considered that an option. This decision has consequently led Salopek to become the all-time leader in passing yards.

But D.J. Dennison, ’12, evaluated the pros and cons of playing football, especially as a non-starter. He recognizes the fact that the strict schedule helps with time management, but the overall time commitment takes away from his studies.

“It’s the benefits of spending time with the guys versus getting a better GPA, getting into a better grad school or getting a better job,” he said.

Dennison continues to participate in football, but he thinks he has his priorities in order.

“I’m not going to go pro in football, but I am going to have to get a job after college,” he said.

The CSP report explains that the GPA difference is not dependent upon incoming freshmen academic statistics from high school, but that it arises after arriving at the college. Although the sports schedule provides structure, the addition of an Allegheny workload to an athletic time commitment can become overwhelming.

Aaron Figore, ’12, was forced to stop playing football in order to keep his grades up, and freshman Maddie Hudac, a volleyball setter, said that she is sometimes forced to stay up late at night in order to finish her homework.

She said the transition from high school to college seemed to be more difficult because of playing a sport.

Matt Lacombe, ’11, cross-country and track participant, said he found the structure to be beneficial at first.

“During the first few years of college, the time management skills that came along with participating in sports improved my grades, but last spring, things were getting pretty difficult,” he said.

With more difficult junior classes and preparation for graduate school exams, Lacombe knew he wouldn’t have time to run track on top of his schoolwork. But he didn’t want to quit track, so he choose to rarely participate in events but still stay on the team.

Lacombe said former head coach Bill Ross recognized the importance of academics before athletics.

“[Ross] encourages people to thinking about it pretty critically before walking away, but he was supportive of doing what I needed to do in school,” he said.