Education Versus Athletics: What Will Division I Football and Basketball Players Choose?

  • Andy Rudd Belmont Abbey College
  • David Ridpath Ohio University
Keywords: College athletics, commercialization, academic misconduct


For many years the desire for money and winning in Division I athletics,  particularly in the sports of football (Football Bowl Subdivision) and men’s basketball, have encouraged colleges and universities to provide special admission for athletes with exceptional athletic ability, who in turn, often are less prepared to succeed academically. This has resulted in the widespread occurrence of unethical academic support practices (e.g., taking classes and writing papers for students and providing answers to exams) in order to maintain athletes’ eligibility and increase graduation rates to appease the public and to present the case that intercollegiate athletic are about education first. As one means of curbing academic misconduct, the authors recommend providing Division I football and basketball the option of playing their sport only without any academic eligibility requirement. Athletes who are struggling academically or lack academic commitment would no longer need to be bolstered by illegitimate academic support or less than accurate metrics. The present exploratory study sought to determine how many Division I football and basketball players would choose the option of playing their sport only versus playing and pursuing their degree under current National Collegiate Athletic Association Guidelines (NCAA) guidelines. The results showed that the majority would still choose to play and pursue their degree. Overall, the belief that one can play professionally did not diminish athletes’ desire to play and earn their degree.  However, there were also a percentage of athletes that believed they can play professionally and also desired to play their sport only.

Author Biographies

Andy Rudd, Belmont Abbey College


Assistant Professor

Sport Management Program




David Ridpath, Ohio University

Associate Professor

Sport Administration Program

College of Business



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