College athletes clustering in a few majors, including sociology

I’ve written before about sociology being considered an “easy major” by athletes. A new report looks at some notable schools and considers how clustered male athletes are within majors:

Since the NCAA invented the APR [Academic Progress Rate] in 2003, critics have worried that it would discourage athletes from choosing difficult majors or from changing course once they started down a given track. Some have anticipated a “clustering” of athletes in certain majors, such as sociology or communication, and others have expressed concern about the creation of broad programs such as general studies with athletes in mind.

A 2008 analysis by USA Today found that clustering happens at most institutions, and of the three sports programs Shalala compares, Miami football is most questionable, with 62.5 percent of the team studying one of two majors. While clustering on a small scale isn’t necessarily unusual, researchers who study the phenomenon say the 25-percent mark is where things start getting fishy.

A full 37.5 percent of Miami’s junior and senior football players were majoring in liberal arts in 2008, and 25 percent in sports administration. The same 37.5 percent of Stanford’s junior and senior softball players were in one major — but it was human biology — and 36.8 percent of baseball players majored in sociology. Notre Dame athletes didn’t cluster at all, according to USA Today’s analysis.

While this report by Donna Shalala, president of Miami, seems tied to troubles their football program has with violating NCAA regulations, the USA Today 2008 analysis offers more insights. While sociology is lumped within the social sciences, you can mouse over the graphics and while the most clustering seems to happen in the social sciences, the sociology clusters are numerous.

Alas, this collected data is still limited:

Assisted by sports information and other school offices, USA TODAY obtained the majors for about 85% of the athletes in the study. For most of the rest, no major was listed. Primary or first-listed majors were used in the cases of students with multiple majors.

Initially, part of the intent was to compare the percentages of athletes in a major with those of the student body as a whole. That is, if 30% of baseball players are in sociology, is 30% of the entire student body enrolled in sociology? However, short of getting athletes’ private records and the federal reporting code of each athlete’s major, large-scale comparisons are unreliable because some schools have multiple versions of some majors.

The NCAA collects similar information, but does not release it and has no current plans to study it.

Hmmm…I wonder why the NCAA has no interest in analyzing this data.

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