Collegiate Sports Participation, Academic Achievement, and Bachelor's Degree Completion1

James Tompsett, Oded Mcdossi, Vincent J. Roscigno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Popular attention to the multi-million-dollar enterprise of collegiate sports often centers on the extent to which student athletes are academically engaged. In this article, we draw on a national sample of approximately 5,000 college-goers, employ key comparisons (i.e., high-visibility student athletes, nonrevenue student athletes, and nonathletes), and consider background disadvantages and collegiate division levels relative to achievement (i.e., grade point average) and bachelor's degree completion. Analyses show that once background attributes and division levels are accounted for, there is little difference in achievement and attainment between high-visibility student athletes and their nonathlete peers. There is, however, a dual advantage in 4-year degree completion for those playing other collegiate sports—an advantage tied to their more privileged family and educational backgrounds and their participation in intercollegiate athletics itself. Our results in these regards are robust to several restrictive and analytically rigorous modeling strategies. We conclude by highlighting the implications for higher education research and its attention to inequality, educational representation, institutional processes, and student success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1266-1287
Number of pages22
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Sociological Forum published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Eastern Sociological Society.


  • achievement
  • attainment
  • collegiate sports
  • higher education
  • inequality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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