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Do College Athletic Programs Have Too Much Clout?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Most Americans still think college sports programs are too powerful and a bad influence on institutions of higher learning.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that two-out-of-three American Adults (66%) believe college athletics have too much power and influence over colleges and universities. Only 20% disagree, while 14% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Just over half (51%) believe big-time college sports programs corrupt the process of higher education, also consistent with what we've been told in the past. Twenty-six percent (26%) disagree, but nearly as many (22%) are undecided.

Findings for both these questions have changed little from past surveys

Only 22% of Americans think most top-tier college athletes take serious courses and receive a good education, although that’s up seven points from last year. Fifty percent (50%) don’t think most of these athletes receive a solid education, while a sizable 28% are not sure.

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The national survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on November 9-10, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

One-in-three adults think just about all big-time college athletic programs break the rules on a regular basis when it comes to recruiting top players. Just 16% think it’s fair for a school to accept a skilled athlete over a more qualified student.

The majority of adults in most demographic categories agree that college athletics have too much influence over their schools and are a corrupting influence.

Men are more critical of the influence of sports programs than women are. Adults under 40, while dubious of college athletics programs, are more likely than their elders to think most college athletes receive a serious education.

There’s general racial agreement about the level of power sports have over colleges, but blacks are slightly more likely than whites and other minority Americans to disagree that sports programs have too much power. Thirty-four percent (34%) of blacks think most top-tier athletes receive a good education, but just 17% of whites and 27% of other minority adults agree.

Even among Americans who don’t think college sports corrupt the higher education system, however, just 41% believe most top-tier athletes receive a good education, while nearly as many (38%) disagree.

Most Americans aren't impressed with the job the NCAA does policing college athletics.

College sports remain the primary route for the development of professional athletes, but just 24% think the pros are good role models for young children these days

More adults think it's a good idea for everyone to get additional schooling after high school, even though they're less convinced than they were several years ago that a college degree is worth what you pay for it.

In fact, just 34% of Americans think most college graduates have the skills needed to enter the workforce.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.   

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