Life after Sports: An Exploration of the Academic Challenges Facing Student-Athletes

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Nick Stephens, Class of 2019


Any complaints from student-athletes regarding their college experience are often brushed aside in favor of the narrative that everything is handed to them. This is especially true in Division I revenue-generating sports where student-athletes often receive full athletic scholarships to attend school and are treated favorably on campus. Yet the lengths to which athletic departments are willing to go to achieve success often negatively affect the academic endeavors of student-athletes. Academic scandals have abounded in recent years at programs such as Auburn University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Michigan, and Florida State University, and student-athletes often find their academic needs devalued in favor of athletic ones. The purpose of this report is to recognize the academic challenges facing student-athletes, identify three potential causes and make recommendations to alleviate these problems. The three challenges addressed are overly demanding athletic schedules, eligibility-based education, and academic clustering. The report is based on academic research and supplemented by interviews with former Texas Christian University football players. Research focuses on student-athletes in revenue-generating sports (football and basketball) at Division I institutions.

Comments from Mentors

Nick Stephens was an exceptional student who studied how student-athletes navigate the challenges of meeting requirements in the classroom while also excelling in collegiate sports. His work highlighted those challenges through interviews with athletes who graduated from TCU. Nick's work revealed much insight about the daily time management challenges of our athletes.

--John Tisdale

In my work with Nick, particicularly on another project, namely, the re-founding of the campus NAACP, I found him to be bright, hard-working, unusually humble, and a good example of white allyship in antiracist struggles.

--Max Krochmal 

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Bob Schieffer College of Communication