College Athletes and Preferential Admissions


The always-interesting Inside Higher Ed has a story about recent analyses of admission procedures for Division I college athletes (hey, it's bowl season!). The unsurprising revelation? You can pretty much suck as a student and still get into whatever school you want if you've got a decent hook shot or 40-yard dash time. The data below is from an Atlanta Journal-Constitution expose, which asked a series of schools to participate.

For those colleges that did report their information, the gaps in academic preparation between athletes and other students are wide. The average SAT for all freshmen at the colleges in question was 1161, while the average for all athletes was 1037, 124 points lower. The average SAT for football players was 941, and for male basketball players, 934.

The averages mask much wider variation among colleges. The University of Cincinnati, Clemson University, the University of California at Berkeley and Georgia Institute of Technology all had average SAT scores for their men's basketball players of roughly 950. But at Cincinnati, the basketball players were within 124 points of the student body at the urban public university; at Clemson, the gap was 201 points; at California, a highly selective flagship, 350 points; and at Georgia Tech, one of the nation's leading public institutions for science and particularly engineering, 396 points.

More here, including a handy-dandy chart in which you can see how much your alma mater grades on a curve when it comes to athletes.

In the February 2008 issue of Reason, Shikha Dalmia looked at legacy preferences and the way that they undermine standards of fairness and equality, especially at state-supported schools that use tax dollars:

Legacy preferences are the original sin of admissions, the policy that fundamentally compromises fair, merit-based standards. Universities can't in good conscience tip the admission scales for the more privileged and then ask the less privileged to compete solely on merit. What's more, eliminating race while keeping legacies will make the admissions process less fair, not more fair, because it will open up minority slots to competition by whites but not vice versa.

Legacy preferences are an especially terrible idea for tax-supported public universities, since they make it possible for rich, white, and less qualified kids to take seats that are at least in part supported by the tax dollars of poor, minority families. Private schools, of course, should be free to admit whomever they want, and it is therefore tempting to ignore their use of legacies. But there are few genuinely private schools in America anymore, thanks to the enormous amount of federal funding they accept. And setting public policy aside: Just as a matter of propriety, should there be room for legacies at institutions that market themselves as bastions of meritocracy? The use of legacies by the Harvards, Yales, and Princetons of the world dilutes the standards of excellence they pretend not merely to uphold, but to embody.

More here.