Study shows that athletes at some Big 12 schools gravitate towards certain majors

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Reportedly athletes at some Big 12 programs tend to end up “clustering” when it comes to the major they ultimately choose.

The study, done by the Lawrence (KS) Journal-World, defines clustering as 25% or more of the athletes on a particular roster sharing the same major and they found that this happens in many of the programs in the conference.

Some of the more significant cases of clustering found in the study include:

  • Baylor football team: 51 percent of players major in general studies, compared with just 1 percent of all other undergraduates.
  • Texas A&M: 37 percent of the men’s basketball players and football players major in agricultural leadership and development, compared with less than 1 percent of nonathletes.
  • Iowa State: Seven of 11 men’s basketball players majored in liberal studies.

The paper also took a look at the majors of Kansas basketball players through the last eight years, finding that 61% of the players who declared a major selected either African and African-American studies, American studies or communications.

It’s important to note (as was done in the piece) that clustering isn’t against NCAA rules and there hasn’t been much done to monitor clustering by the governing body.

The issue is whether or not players, especially those who aren’t fortunate enough to land a job playing professionally, receive course work and (hopefully) a college degree that’s actually worth something.

The focus when big-time athletic prospects come to campus is simply to keep them on the field, said Jason Lanter, a psychology professor and president of the Drake Group, which helps “faculty and staff defend academic integrity in the face of the burgeoning college sport industry.”

“The coach says, ‘I don’t care, make them eligible,’” said Lanter of some coaches’ attitudes toward academics.

The result is that players spend their time on campus, maybe get a degree, but in a field that doesn’t interest them and that presents little future opportunity, Lanter said.

In essence, a wasted degree.

While this is truly unfortunate, with there not being an established way in which to monitor such issues the responsibility ultimately falls to each individual program.

And that can make it quite easy for some to reach for the simple goal of making sure players are merely eligible.

The APR (Academic Progress Rate) measures the progress towards a degree, and that’s not the same as making sure the courses being taken towards a degree are actually useful.

Is the goal to simply graduate players, or to make sure they’re being educated as well?

This study doesn’t reveal much that would truly stun those who follow college sports, but it seems to offer a glimpse into how schools can lessen the chances of falling below those APR guidelines.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.