Admissions Selectivity and Major Distribution in Big-Time College Football

Adam Love – University of Tennessee
Jim Watkins – Mississippi State University
Seungmo Kim – Hong Kong Baptist University


Given the fact that few college athletes go on to pursue careers in professional sport, it is important for them to gain meaningful value from their education to help them succeed in life beyond sport. The current study investigated one indicator of the extent to which student-athletes obtain an educational experience that is comparable to their non-athlete peers. Specifically, the current study examined (a) the distribution of football players’ academic majors compared to that of the general student body and (b) how this distribution compared at universities with the most selective and least selective admissions standards in “big-time” college football. Results indicated that the distribution of football players’ academic majors differed from that of the general study body both at institutions in the “most selective” and “least selective” groups. Football players were most frequently overrepresented in “social sciences” and underrepresented in “engineering” majors. Further, it appears that football players were overrepresented or underrepresented in academic areas of study more frequently at the “most selective” institutions. These results have relevant implications for university and athletics administrators, who should consider ways in which athletics programs could be structured to allow student-athletes to take advantage of the full range of academic programs offered at an institution.