Engaging College Athletes in & Through Graduate Study: Academic Trajectories and Implications

Siduri Haslerig – University of Oklahoma

This phenomenological study explores the academic trajectories of Division I football players who earned bachelor’s degrees and took postbaccalaureate coursework prior to exhausting their NCAA eligibility, i.e., graduate(d) student athletes. Despite academic success, this population has been virtually invisible in the research literature. Findings were analyzed using college choice and transition-from-sport frameworks. Although most participants entered college with a predisposition toward college-going and, for some, plans to pursue graduate coursework, others were less traditionally college-bound but still successful. Further, as participants made meaning of their graduate student status, they tended to frame their trajectory as the result of taking full advantage of opportunities and, subsequently, reframed athletic participation as a means-to-anend in providing those opportunities. Lastly, findings suggest that graduate coursework may function as an alternative high impact practice for college athletes toward the end of college by potentially easing the transition-from-sport in addition to having direct positive effects on career exploration.