Academic clustering and Division II athletics: Exploratory research on Tarleton State University
Abstract: Academic clustering in higher education athletics has received increased attention from scholars in recent years (Case, Dey, Barry, & Rudolph, 2017; Dahab, 2016; Foster & Huml, 2017; Houston & Baber, 2017). In their foundational study, Case, Greer, and Brown (1987) defined academic clustering as a phenomenon that occurs when 25% or more of student-athletes on an athletic team declare the same academic major. Many student-athletes are steered into certain majors by their coaches, academic advisors, fellow teammates, and their internal identity as athlete-students (Case et al., 2017; Foster & Huml, 2017; Fountain & Finley, 2009; McCormick, 2010). Literature shows the practice of academic clustering is widespread in Division I revenue sports of football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball. To our knowledge, scholars have failed to examine whether the practice of academic clustering occurs in Division II athletics or whether student-athletes on non-revenue sport teams (e.g., golf, tennis, soccer, and track-and-field) are academically clustered.
To examine these two issues, the presenter analyzed 2017-2018 athletic media guides and athletic webpages on Tarleton State University (TSU) athletic teams. TSU is a Division II school that features revenue and non-revenue sports teams. The presenter hypothesized academic clustering would exist at the Division II level in both revenue and non-revenue sports. The data indicated that eight of the 10 athletic teams at TSU were academically clustered. Furthermore, ten of the twelve teams were academically clustered as Kinesiology majors. The results from TSU’s 2017-2018 athletic teams are significant because they suggest future research on the practice of academic clustering at the Division II level and in non-revenue sports is needed to better understand academic clustering in higher education athletics.
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