Student-athletes: smart on the field and the classroom
SMU athletics has had a rough history in competitions over the years, especially on the football field. But is the history the same in the classroom for student-athletes compared with regular students at the university?
SMU’s president, R. Gerald Turner, announced last week that SMU has now set a record for the highest average SAT score for incoming freshman. According to university data, those scores have increased 8.3 percent from 2004 to 2013. There was a slight 0.2 percent dip in the scores from the years 2005 to 2006 but then the scores steadily rose to today’s record-setting average of 1302.
Today, the national average SAT score for schools in the United States is 1010. This means that SMU’s scores are 28.9 percent higher. These scores reflect the entire student body as a whole, including incoming student-athletes.
“SMU has been very intentional and strategic in improving the quality of our student body, and the entire university community has been engaged in this effort for many years,” said Stephanie Dupaul, the associate vice president for enrollment management. “We’ve changed our outreach methods to get into conversations with stronger students.”
The university would not release segmented versions of the first-year test scores that compare regular first-year students to first-year student-athletes. But SMU’s senior associate athletic director, Brad Sutton, says that the athletic department “recruits student-athletes who excel on the field and in the classroom”.
According to the numbers provided by the university, the sports teams’ grades and graduation rates are exceptional in comparison with the rest of the university.
In the spring of 2013, SMU athletic teams had a cumulative GPA of 3.051. Most important, all of SMU’s sports teams met NCAA requirements when it came to academics.
Here are some numbers that represent SMU’s sports teams in the 2012-2013 school year: 44.2 percent of all of SMU’s student-athletes were named to the Commissioner’s Honor Roll for maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. In addition, 29 student-athletes earned Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medals last school year, according to data given by Sutton.
The most recent graduation success rate compiled on the NCAA data reports shows that in the years of 2002-2005 student-athlete graduation rates in all sports on SMU’s campus were higher than the federal rate average. For example, men’s basketball graduated 85 percent of its athletes compared to the 62 percent federal rate. Women’s cross country and track graduated 100 percent of its athletes compared to the 79 percent federal rate.
These numbers continue throughout the rest of SMU sports including football, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s and women’s tennis. According to Sutton, through the most recent years at SMU the numbers have stayed relatively the same.
Dupaul says the university also applies high academic standards to all applicants, including athletes. “In a few cases – less than 25 applicants from the over 14,000 received last year – a prospective student-athlete may require additional review through a faculty committee,” said Dupaul. “This committee carefully considers the applicant’s potential for academic success at SMU.”
[SMU recruits heavily from overseas. Many of these students do not have to provide test scores for the SAT or ACT.
First-year Eric Fitz-Randolph was accepted into SMU through the SMU-in-Switzerland program. He is spending his first semester of college abroad, but he says these statistics did not hurt him when he applied to SMU.
“This proves that SMU is becoming a more competitive school to attend,” said Fitz-Randolph. “I feel that I would do better and be more motivated around people who have received higher scores and better grades than me.”
If a student-athlete does not meet the necessary requirements in the classroom, they are subjected to the same punishment as other students.
“To help these student-athletes succeed in the classroom, SMU offers support through the A-LEC,” said Dennis Foster, faculty senate athletic policies committee chair. “The faculty also works closely with these student-athletes to enable them to pass their classes with their busy schedules.”
Ultimately, the goal of the athletic department at SMU is to win. But, in the recruitment process, the student-athletes must comply with the university standards to be able to succeed in their classes. Overall, SMU athletics positively adds to the vision of moving the university forward as an academic institution.