It’s a well known fact that big-time college sports exploits the generally low SES minority football players who take the hits and concussions, and gives the money they earn to the generally white and rich golf and tennis players, who get fancy facilities and scholarships that actually leave them time to get an education. After the coaches take their cut, of course.
But I was surprised to read that even the NCAA’s revenue sport athletes are less and less likely to be first generation students. Tom Farrey has the story here:
For March Madness this year, the NCAA is running a public service announcement called “Opportunity,” which includes images of some athletes from disadvantaged areas who will get to go to college by playing basketball. It underscores the notion that a core piece of the NCAA’s mission is providing athletic scholarships and college educations to student-athletes in need.
But here’s the stark, myth-busting truth: Fewer than 1 in 5 students playing Division 1 hoops, and 1 in 7 in all Division 1 sports, come from families in which neither parent went to college. And their numbers are declining.
Educators call such students “first gens,” or members of the first generation of their family to attend college. It is a closely tracked figure because it’s a key measure of socioeconomic opportunity. First gens are typically from poor and working-class families that have difficulty paying for college without scholarships. For first gen athletes who don’t go onto the pros — the vast majority – an athletic scholarship is their ticket not just to a degree, but also for entry into the middle class.
In 2010, the NCAA began asking college athletes whether they are first gens as part of its little-known GOALS Study, which captures the background and experience of those playing sports at all three levels of competition. In 2015, it did another survey of 21,000 athletes. The Undefeated asked the NCAA to break out a portion of the data on first gens to get a fuller understanding of who gets to play college sports.
Surprisingly, the data revealed that most Division 1 sports experienced steep drops in first gen students. The falloff was dramatic even in the sports most associated with tales of uplift: In men’s basketball, the sport that used to have the highest percentage of first gens, the number plummeted by a third in just five years. Women’s basketball experienced a similar drop. Football fell by more than 10 percent. …