I Know I Can Learn: The Perceptions of NCAA Division I Football College Athletes with Learning Disabilities

Sarah Stokowski – University of Arkansas
Heather Blunt-Vinti – University of Arkansas
Robin Hardin – University of Tennessee
Benjamin D. Goss – Missouri State University
Megan Turk – University of Arkansas


While 11% of all college students are reported to have a learning disability (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016), that percentage may be considerably higher when looking at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I college athletes. Farrey (2009) reported as many as 54% of athletes on three revenue-producing teams at one institution had documented learning disabilities. Many students with learning disabilities are academically underprepared for the rigors of higher education and may be considered a vulnerable population within a higher education setting (Eckes & Ochoa, 2005). The purpose of this study is to examine Division I Football Bowl Series (FBS) college athletes’ with learning disabilities attitudes toward learning. Nine football college athletes with learning disabilities at a single Division I FBS institution participated in semi-structured interviews. Throughout the data, one major theme appeared consistently; learning competence, referring to the participants’ belief that they were capable and willing to learn. While many participants were not aware of their particular disability, it was clear the participants wanted to learn, felt they could learn, and had developed strategies to assist them in being successful in the classroom. The results of this study will allow those working with this particular population of college athletes to develop a greater understanding of their academic experiences, perceptions, and needs.