Is the medicine killing the patient? Academic eligibility rules for high school athletes

Paul Ambrose Collins, Fordham University


This study was designed to analyze the effect that academic eligibility rules have on high school student-athletes. The problem to investigate in this research project is the impact academic eligibility rules have on the behavior and motivation of student-athletes. This study looks at two states with contrasting eligibility policies. New Jersey, a state with a mandated policy of passing 27.5 credits (13.75 per semester) is far more restrictive than New York State which requires a student to take four courses plus physical education. How do these respective policies impact on the academic achievement of student-athletes? This research project, using a minicase-study method, investigated four schools, two in New Jersey and two in New York, to analyze the effects of academic eligibility rules on the student-athletes. Since New Jersey's rules on eligibility are more restrictive, the impact of these rules should vary to some degree on the students' academic performance. The research found that the New Jersey athletes used in the study were motivated to work harder on their studies. The New York athletes, realizing they could participate in sports without passing their subjects, were less inclined to worry about achieving in the classroom. Given the limitations of this research project, it was apparent that when pushed to do better and told if they do not pass, they do not play, students rose to the occasion and passed their subjects. It is recommended that educators not let the student-athletes exploit the system and coaches should not exploit the athletes. In fairness, these rules should extend to all extracurricular activities (e.g., band members, debate teams). Among future studies recommended are (a) to have each state survey its member schools to see how these rules impact on the academic performance of the student-athletes, and (b) to examine how many athletes are adversely affected by academic eligibility rules.

Subject Area

School administration|Recreation|Physical education

Recommended Citation

Collins, Paul Ambrose, "Is the medicine killing the patient? Academic eligibility rules for high school athletes" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9947860.