Division II SCORE

The NCAA research staff periodically conducts studies that ask current and former student-athletes how their participation in intercollegiate athletics affected their educational experience and their lives after college.

One, which focuses on recent classes of athletes in all three NCAA divisions, is called Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in college (GOALS). The other, which checks in with former players further removed from their competitive days, is called the Study of College Outcomes and Recent Experiences (SCORE) of former student-athletes.

A version  of the latter (SCORE) in 2010 focused directly on student-athletes who played  sports at Division II institutions, and  it proved valuable in validating  Division II’s “Life in the Balance” approach to athletics being an integral part of a student’s college  experience.

Data from 5,400 participants who were college freshmen in 1999 or 2000 suggest that Division II student-athletes are very satisfied with their experience at these schools, and much of the satisfaction came from being encouraged to balance their passion for athletics with the quest for academic learning and developing leader- ship skills that mold productive citizens after graduation.

The overwhelming majority of these former student-athletes reported satisfaction with their overall collegiate experience (92 percent), as well as with their individual academic (86 percent), athletics (83 percent) and social experiences (92 percent). Satisfaction with the overall Division II experience is related to several variables, including having both a strong academic and athletics identity, engaging academically, voluntarily retiring from sport  (versus  having to quit due  to injury or inability to make  the team),  not transferring, earning a bachelor’s degree, and  finding an appropriate balance between academics and  other  collegiate activities. The data back up the Division II philosophy that “life in the balance” is vital.

Given that such high proportions of former Division II student-athletes reported finding balance and earning a bachelor’s degree, it’s not surprising then that a vast majority of them – 93 percent – reported that they would probably or definitely recommend the Division II experience to a high school student. This is perhaps the “bottom-line” endorsement of the Division II experience on the part of former student-athletes.


For Division II, “Life in the Balance” means providing student-athletes with growth opportunities through academic achievement, learning in high-level athletics com- petition and developing positive societal attitudes in service to community. The “balance” and integration of these different areas of learning opportunity offer Division II student-athletes a path to graduation while cultivating a variety of skills and knowledge for life ahead.

As such, Division II has identified six key attributes to support this approach: Balance, Learning, Passion, Service, Sportsmanship and Resourcefulness.

The 2010 SCORE study amplifies the importance and benefits of a balanced collegiate experience that includes athletics participation. Of the 5,400 former DII student-athletes surveyed, 86 percent said they found at least some degree of balance among athletics, academics and extracurricular activities while in college.

When thinking about “balance” in terms of the student-athlete experience, most consider athletics and academics being the primary components. While balance is much more about the entire campus experience, the 2010 DII SCORE study did probe the effects of athletics participation on academics.

When asked what role athletics participation had on their academic responsibilities, 42 percent of respondents indicated that, in hindsight, they felt that athletics did cause them to spend less time on their academic work than they wanted. But most of these respondents (85 percent) said they didn’t regret the sacrifice, and that it didn’t affect their overall satisfaction with their college experience. (It should be noted that former Di- vision II student-athletes who did not earn a degree were twice as likely to indicate regret over their athletics time commitments as were those who did earn a degree. And, not surprisingly, those who indicated regret over lost time on academics were also more likely to report that they found it difficult to establish a balanced structure between academics and extracurricular activities.)

Former student-athletes also were asked if they were satisfied with the amount of time they spent on athletics, or if they wished they had more time or less.  Overall, fewer than half (45 percent) reported that they were satisfied with the amount of time they spent on athletics. Approximately the same proportion (48 percent) actually wanted more time for athletics, while 7 percent wish they had had less time.

Previous NCAA research (GOALS, 2006) showed that Division II student-athletes spent, on average, about 25 to 38 hours each week on athletics activities. Time commitments varied by sport group, so the 2010 DII SCORE study probed the relationship between time demands of the sport and perceptions of balance in the collegiate experience. Interestingly, no significant  differences emerged in how student-athletes from among the highest time-demand sports (baseball, basketball and  football for men; basketball and  swimming  for women)  responded to finding an appropriate balance among academics and extracurricular activities  and  those in some of the lowest  time-demand sports (golf, soccer and  track  for men; golf, tennis  and  softball  for women).

Former student-athletes also were asked how satisfied they were with the amount of time they spent on activities other than athletics while in college, including academics, volunteering and socializing. Very few reported wanting  to have  spent less  time on activities, and  more  than  half were satisfied with the time spent on family responsibilities, socializing with friends,  a job and  relaxing by myself. The areas where student-athletes reported really wanting more time were educational opportunities, extracurricular activities and community service. Among these, class work/educational opportunities stood out among the others as the one area in which former student-athletes seem to really wish they had more time.

Overall, though, the DII SCORE study showed most student-athletes reported feeling that they were able to strike a good balance between academics and other activities while in college, including athletics.


As an attribute in the Division II strategic-positioning platform, passion isn’t exclusive to athletics participation, but it’s hard to find any student-athlete who isn’t passionate about playing college sports. That’s why the 2010 DII SCORE study asked about student-athletes’ athletics experiences in particular.

The 5,400 respondents represented 21 sports, and nearly all indicated they played at the varsity level (about 15 percent said they played a second sport).  Three-quarters reported having been recruited by a coach, and 72 percent said they received an athletics scholarship (19 percent full scholarship; 53 percent partial scholarship).

Most of the former Division II student-athletes reported that participation in college sports had a positive effect on several life skills (endorsed very positive or positive on the survey). About 90 percent said it had a positive effect on teamwork, work ethic and self-responsibility. Study skills and commitment to volunteerism were endorsed less often, but still about half of the respondents said their participation in Division II athletics had a direct positive effect on these attributes.

Overall, 64 percent of former Division II student-athletes reported that they are completely satisfied or satisfied with their college athletics experience, and another 19 percent reported they are somewhat satisfied.


SCORE survey recipients were asked not only about their perceptions of their own sportsmanship but also how they perceived the level of sportsmanship among their former college teammates, and what role they believe the coach should play in creating an atmosphere of sportsmanship.

Overall, 47 percent of respondents indicated that they strongly agree that the lessons learned through athletics have made them a more ethical person. Another 36 percent responded they somewhat agree with this statement.

Respondents who indicated a strong athletics identity were more likely to report the highest level of agreement (strongly agree) that lessons learned through athletics have helped shape them as an ethical person (55 percent, compared with 33 percent among with those with lower athletics identity).

About 75 percent of respondents also gave their teammates positive ratings on sportsmanship. And half of them said that winning shouldn’t be a coach’s primary objective (though 30 percent stated that it should be). When those responses were divided by demographic groups, no more than about one-third in any group believe that winning should be the coach’s top priority. Males – especially those who have a high athletics identity, those who played a team sport, and those who played basketball or football – were more likely to have this belief.


Nothing is more important in the student-athlete experience than the educational component. The 2010 SCORE study verified that importance.

Of the 5,400 survey respondents, 88 percent of them said they earned their bachelor’s degree within 10 years of their initial enrollment in college. Fifty-seven percent earned that degree in four years or less.  The 88 percent figure is even better than the six-year Academic Success Rate the NCAA calculates for Division II institutions, which for the most recent entering class of 2006 is 69 percent.

The table above illustrates how graduation rates in the DII SCORE study vary by both gender and race. In every racial category, females reported graduating at higher rates than did males. For example, overall, 93 percent of females reported earning a bachelor’s degree within 10 years compared to 85 percent of males. Among those who earned a bachelor’s degree, most graduated from their initial school of enrollment. Among those who graduated, just 23 percent reported that they attended more than one institution. More than half of non-graduates (56 percent), however, reported transferring at least once. 

Academic Success Rates in Division II from year to year, while impressive, typically aren’t as high as they are in Divisions I and  III, though they’re always  higher than  graduation rates from the general student body  (as is also the case in the other  two divisions). Much of the reason for that divisional difference is that many Division II schools are located in smaller,  rural communities or in urban  areas, and  their academic missions cater to families that may not have  a long lineage  of higher education attendance.

The 2010 Division II SCORE study took that into account, measuring graduation patterns from “first-generation” college students, which are defined as students whose parents did not attend college. About 21 percent of the respondents identified as first generation, and about 82 percent of them are now college graduates. About 88 percent of the respondents who said only one parent had attended college are now graduates as well.

Survey recipients also were asked about whether they identified more as an athlete or as a student while in college, which plays a significant role in graduation attainment. The SCORE study measured athletics and academic identity with a series of four parallel questions, each asking the former student-athletes to recall their college experience and indicate if they considered themselves as dedicated student (or dedicated athlete); if they had goals related to their academics (athletics); if they needed to excel in academic (athletics) pursuits to feel good about themselves; and how important their academic (athletics) experiences were to them.

While nearly all respondents reported identifying strongly as both students and athletes, the academic identity is more closely tied with eventual degree attainment. A strong athletics identification doesn’t help or hinder a student-athlete’s likelihood of graduating, but lack of a strong academics identity may. In the 2010 Division II SCORE study, both females and non-first-generation college students reported higher mean academic identities than did their counterparts, which may in part explain graduation differences between those groups. (There are no substantial differences in reports of athletics identity by gender, race or first-generation college student status.)

The SCORE survey also posed several questions about academic major and the factors that influenced that choice. The three most popular majors were Business (26 percent), Social Sciences (14 percent) and Education (excluding Physical Education) (12 percent). Most of the SCORE respondents said they chose their major because they were interested in the topic, and that it would help prepare them for a particular career field.

Nearly all respondents (94 percent) indicated that their coach had no influence over their choice of major. About 3 percent indicated that the coach did in fact influence this decision but that they had no regrets about it. This means 3 percent did have regrets about the coach’s role in the decision of which major to choose. While there were no differences by gender in reports that a coach discouraged a major, black student-athletes were significantly more likely to report a coach discouraged a major and that they have regrets about that decision.

Interestingly, student-athletes who changed a major while in college graduated at slightly greater rates than did those who did not change a major. Approximately 40 percent of respondents indicated they changed majors. Of those, 91 percent earned a degree compared with 88 percent of those who stayed with their original major choice. There were no differences by gender or race in likelihood of changing majors.

The SCORE study also probed whether the former student-athletes were satisfied with the effort they put forth toward their academics. Among those who earned a bachelor’s degree, nearly two-thirds reported feeling very positive or positive about their efforts in the classroom. In contrast, among those who did not earn a bachelor’s degree, just over one-third reported feeling very positive or positive about their efforts.

Data from previous NCAA research (2006 GOALS study) showed that these Division II student-athletes likely spent, on average, approximately 25-38 hours each week (depending on sport group) on athletics activities during their season. With such a significant time commitment, it is possible that student-athletes feel that there was not enough time left over for their academics. Forty-two percent of respondents indicated that, in hindsight, they felt that athletics did cause them to spend less time on their academic work than they wanted.

The great majority of these respondents (85 percent), however, indicated that they do not regret the sacrifice in academic time because of their athletics commitments. Importantly, though, former Division II student-athletes who did not earn a degree were twice as likely to indicate regret over their athletics time commitments as were those who did earn a degree.

Community engagement

An important distinction for Division II is the effort from institutions to engage and partner with their communities. Because many Division II schools are located in smaller communities, such relationships build a fan base and boost the school’s regional reputation. Using athletics as the “front porch” to these communities has proven to be a successful outreach approach.

While the SCORE survey did not explicitly ask the former student-athletes about the nature of their community engagement in college, they were asked what impact it had in preparing them for life after college. More than half thought that community engagement had a positive effect for a number of reasons (see accompanying chart).

These former Division II student-athletes currently volunteer in very high numbers. Ninety percent reported having participated in some type of community engagement since leaving college. Forty-three percent of volunteers reported that they do so frequently, while another 38 percent reported they do so occasionally. Reasons cited as motivators to participate in volunteer activities include civic duty, social opportunities and career opportunities.


As an attribute in the Division II context, “resourcefulness” is defined as “having a versatile skill set drawn from a broad range of experiences.” These experiences certainly include athletics participation and academic coursework, but the 2010

Division II SCORE study also widened the lens a bit to capture that “broad range” of experiences, including social interaction.

As such, the survey included two sets of items on interactions with students from different racial/ethnic groups. One was a measure of positive interactions and included items on shared personal feelings and problems, intellectual discussions outside of class, and social interactions. The second measured interaction difficulties.

Former Division II student-athletes reported, on average, having a moderate exposure to these so-called positive interactions with students of a different racial/ethnic group. The most frequent positive interaction that former student-athletes reported was socializing or partying with students from other racial/ethnic groups (58 percent reported doing this often). Few former student-athletes reported having so-called interaction difficulties, and they were much more likely to report having guarded interactions than tense or hostile ones.

When examining these experiences by race and sport, it appears exposure could be a key factor in how former student-athletes responded. Those  student-athletes who participated in a team  sport (with more  potential for frequent across-group interactions) were significantly  more  likely than  individual-sport athletes to report both more  frequent positive  interactions and  more  interaction difficulties. Minority student-athletes were even more likely to report both positive interactions and interaction difficulties than were white student-athletes.

With regard to current interactions, about 70 percent reported that they interact with people from other racial/ethnic groups on most days (41 percent indicated they do so daily). There’s a moderate correlation between the frequency of positive interactions with people of a different racial or ethnic group while in college and frequency of interactions later on as adults. Among those who socialized frequently with students of a different racial or ethnic group while in college, 76 percent report interacting frequently as adults.

Division II student-athletes enjoy the social aspect of the college experience, and it affords them unique opportunities to interact with a diverse group of peers. Most former Division II student-athletes are satisfied with their college social experience. They reported a moderate level of positive interaction with students of a different racial/ethnic group, and socializing or partying was the most frequently reported positive interaction. Those who had positive interactions with people of a different racial or ethnic group while in college interact more frequently with different groups later on as adults. Four in five former Division II student-athletes volunteer in the community occasionally or frequently, and one in four gives back by coaching a youth or amateur adult sports team.


SCORE-96 is the most comprehensive large-scale national study of former college student-athletes ever undertaken. It is a longitudinal study that collects data from student-athletes who completed their collegiate careers approximately ten years ago and assesses the impact of intercollegiate athletics during and beyond college. A previous iteration of the study examined similar outcomes for an earlier cohort of former student-athletes.


The survey is designed to gather in-depth information in seven areas:

  • College sports experiences
  • College educational experiences
  • Current career and work experiences
  • Health and well-being
  • Daily life experiences
  • Background information
  • Open-ended feedback


Student-athletes who had graduated high school in 1996 were identified from records gathered at the time of their initial entry into a Division I college. We attempted to contact roughly 25,000 of these former student-athletes in this study.


Participants were given the option to complete an online or paper version of the survey.


Over 7,000 surveys were received. Data will be weighted to be as representative as possible of the appropriate 1996-entering cohort of student-athletes.

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