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These articles were prepared for the March 28, 2001 edition of
U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
To the Editor: A Replay On Student Athletes
There I was, immersed in March Madness and pulling hard
for my alma mater’s team, a group I have always believed to be not
just good basketball players, but also good students. Then came the
March 14 issue of U.S. 1, with David McDonough’s story about "The
Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values," by James
L. Shulman and William G. Bowen, former Princeton University
There was my school, Duke University, listed along with other colleges
the authors had sampled for their book, which suggests there is a
wide and growing gap between university athletes and non-athletes
in several key areas.
"Say it ain’t so" was my reflexive thought. Then, after doing
a bit of my own research, I discovered that in just about every case
the authors cite, it isn’t so at Duke. While what follows may be
as the bias of a Duke alumnus, the facts I turned up are, inarguably,
contrary to the findings reported in and from the book. My information
came from Brad Berndt, assistant director of athletics in charge of
academic services, and the Duke Basketball 2000-2001 Yearbook.
Below are statements in the U.S. 1 story from or about the
book; after each one are facts from or about Duke:
is the growing tendency for athletes to perform less well academically
than others and to enter schools with lower SATs than the average
At Duke: One of the key measures of how well students do in
their four-year college experience is the graduation rate. At Duke,
the average graduation rate over the past four years for
is 93 percent. The rate for all other students is 94 percent —
"phenomenal rates for both groups," according to Berndt.
Moreover, while the average SAT score for all athletes at Duke is
about 100 points lower than those of all other incoming students —
a little over 1200 as opposed to a little over 1300 — the athletes
perform as well, on average, as all other students, as shown by the
similar graduation rates. Berndt says there is no discernible
through the four years between the academic performance of athletes
and non-athletes. And, as Berndt offers, most college admissions
would be elated with either of the scores mentioned here.
and the rest of the student world. "It’s more and more a separate
community," Bowen is quoted as saying.
At Duke Brad Berndt says student-athletes fit in seamlessly
with all other students in all significant ways. For instance:
in the same ratio as do all other students, and, Berndt states,
are no easy majors at Duke."
— the one farthest from all athletic facilities at the university.
same as all non-athletes.
they take the same kinds of classes as all other students; they are
subject to the same rigorous testing and grading standards; and on
average they graduate in the same length of time, with an almost
graduation rate. As the Basketball Yearbook says, "the term
is genuinely appropriate."
is quoted as saying. "In a way the lower SAT scores bother me
less than the fact that you get lower performance from athletes with
a certain SAT score than other students with the same SAT score. The
real issue is the best use of a scarce resource . . . My choice would
be admitting people who will take fuller advantage of the educational
opportunities of the institution."
At Duke athletes with their SAT scores perform every bit as
well as non-athletes with their SAT scores. Acknowledging that the
university is a scarce resource, it appears clear that Duke athletes
accept this notion and do in fact "take full advantage . . .
that there are schools where athletes abuse their status, don’t
and in fact, don’t even complete one year. Press coverage of NCAA
penalties bears this out. I speak here only of Duke, an institution
that does not deserve to be daubed with the too-broad brush of Shulman
Two final arguments in defense of athletes at Duke: First, where else
can you imagine a coach electing not to raise the National Basketball
Championship banner on campus until one of his top players, Christian
Laettner, returned to school to complete the one course he need for
graduation? (This story was confirmed by Brad Berndt.)
Finally, since the Duke football team has a record of 0 and 11 for
the past two seasons (while boasting several academic all-Americans
on both teams), one has to wonder if maybe they should pay a little
more attention to athletics — just to balance things out.
The print version of U.S. Newspaper, March 28, covers these
companies in Survival Guide (pp. 4 to 14), the cover story (pp. 41 to
44), and Life in the Fast Lane (pp. 45 to 47). All are archived at
Arena Capital, 41; Chauncey Group, 41; Educational Testing Service,
41; EduNeering Inc., 41; eMind.com, 41; Federal Bureau of
Investigation, 8; Galen Partners, 41; Global Value Investors Inc., 12;
Hastings Healthcare Group, 41, 44.
Inforest Communications, 9; J.H. Cohn LLP, 46; Justballs!, 47;
Knapp & Associates International, 41; KnowledgeWire, 41;
McCarter Theater, 8; Media By Design, 41; New Jersey Bankers
Association, 46; New Jersey Department of Labor, 6;
New Jersey Society of CPAs, 14; Newton Interactive, 41, 44;
Princeton Learning Systems, 41; Princeton University, 45;
Rutgers Family Business Forum, 4; Sarnoff Corporation, 41;
Sibson & Co., 41; Skylands Small Business Development
Center, 10; State Theatre, 46; Stonehouse Media, 41;
Trenton Business Assistance Center, 10, 12;
Vaughn Design, 45;
White Eagle Printing, 5.
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