Office of the President

Collegiate Sports can be a springboard to success

College sports are special. Many of us live for those crisp autumn Saturday afternoons or the excitement of an overtime tipoff. But the true value of college sports, the reason we as an Association do what we do, goes far beyond the games we love. It lies in our ability to provide educational opportunities that transform the lives of young people.

We see the value of college sports in the first generation college student or the single mom on scholarship — the loftiest successes in the midst of the direst circumstances. We do this because college sports offer student-athletes the tools to create a future of endless possibilities. 

I hear many of these success stories as I travel to campuses across the country — stories of resilience and strength that illustrate to me time and time again the incredible value there is in being part of something bigger than yourself, of having goals to work toward, and of having the unique support system of coaches and teammates. Behind the made shots and perfect serves, college sports are quietly functioning as a vital means to educate those who otherwise might not have ever experienced higher education.

Nearly 20 percent of student-athletes are in the first generation of their families to attend college. And for many of those student-athletes, that fact is made possible by the $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships that are awarded by NCAA colleges and universities.

Brooke Foster, a softball standout and recent graduate of North Texas, became the first member of her family to graduate from college this year. Remarkably, she accomplished this goal while raising her 4- year-old son, Layton. Brooke’s dedication to her sport and her studies earned her a scholarship and helped her get a degree that will be of tremendous value to both of them in years to come.

Courtney Boyd grew up surrounded by drugs and dire poverty in a home eight miles east of East St. Louis, Illinois, in a town where the high school graduation rate is 30 percent. Through the help of incredible role models and Courtney’s genuine desire to achieve the impossible, she attended Wright State on a basketball scholarship. Courtney graduated in May and plans to become a teacher and coach with the goal of pulling others out of the situation in which she found herself at a young age.

These are, of course, only two of the countless stories I hear from campuses all over the country that represent the real value of college sports. The value of what we’re doing is not an abstract concept; it’s a tangible, potent force in the lives of our student-athletes.

More than eight in 10 student-athletes earn their bachelor’s degrees, and more than 35 percent of Division I student-athletes go on to earn postgraduate degrees. Additionally, the graduation rates of student-athletes are consistently higher than those of the general student population.

These young people use their education as a springboard to a future they may not have been able to envision for themselves without college sports. We all know that most of our student-athletes are not going to play professional sports. But we can rest assured that they are going live better lives for having played college sports.

Mark Emmert
NCAA President