Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership


Intercollegiate athletics have been placed under intense scrutiny over the past decade. Concern has been expressed about the role and value intercollegiate athletics has in higher education. Recent scandals of intercollegiate programs and student-athletes involved in illicit or criminal activity, recruiting violations, and academic fraud or failures have increased the anxiety and skepticism. However, is the skepticism surrounding the academic integrity of intercollegiate athletics and academic achievement of student-athletes warranted? Are academics being compromised for the sake of athletics? Is the stereotypical “dumb jock” a myth or reality? Do athletes perform as well academically as nonathletes?

The purpose of this study was to compare the academic achievement of studentathletes to nonathletes at the University of North Dakota (UND), a NCAA Division II institution. Also, student-athletes competing in revenue sports were compared to those in non-revenue sports. All students listed as participating in a sport by the Office of Records and Admissions were included in the study. The student-athlete group was matched with a stratified random sample of nonathletes by gender, academic classification level, and academic college. Also, age was limited to a maximum of twenty-four years old. Cumulative college GPA was the primary measure of academic achievement. Other academic achievement factors included whether a student was placed on academic probation at some point in their college career, credit hours repeated, annual credit hours earned, and S-U courses taken. ACT composite scores were used to compare academic preparation.

Overall, this study found that student-athletes’ academic achievement surpassed nonathletes. Initially, no significant difference was found between the cumulative college GPAs o f student-athletes and nonathletes. Furthermore, student-athletes were significantly less likely to have been placed on Academic Probation, repeated significantly less credit hours, and earned significantly more annual credits than their nonathlete counterparts. There also was no significant difference in the average number of S-U credits taken and the ACT composite scores of student-athletes and nonathletes. Finally, the cumulative college GPA of student-athletes participating in revenue sports was significantly lower than those participating in non-revenue sports. The “dumb jock” stereotype appears to be based more on myth and misconception than reality and fact.