A comparison of early career accomplishments and their correlates for graduates who participated in intercollegiate athletics and those who did not

Date of Completion

January 1993


Education, Physical|Education, Higher




This study examined the degree to which college graduates who participated in intercollegiate athletics matched or exceeded early career accomplishments of their counterparts who did not participate. The study also examined selected correlates of accomplishments for both groups.^ The study looked at the post-baccalaureate accomplishments of 166 college graduates of the high school class of 1972 who lettered in selected sports at Division I and other colleges and universities. Their accomplishments were compared to those of 4,936 graduates who completed baccalaureates but did not participate in athletics. The Postsecondary Education Transcript Study database of the U.S. Department of Education comprised the principal source of data for the study. The PETS project is an in-depth study of a sub-sample of the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972. It includes in-depth experience profiles of graduates of NLS-72 who had completed college by the Fifth Follow-Up of the Study (1986).^ Rank-order means and standard deviations, chi-square, analysis of covariance, and step-wise multiple regression analysis comprised the principal statistical applications for the study. The study was informed by Alexander Astin's Involvement Theory. This theory holds that involvement in campus activities strengthens self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and leadership qualities of students, and that it comprises one of the more valid aspects of the developmental process on college campuses.^ Findings of the study indicated that athletes did as well as non-athletes on all of the variables used in the comparisons evaluating early career accomplishments, namely: Duncan SEI, level of income, and incidence of ownership.^ Correlates of accomplishments were also identified. These were different for the groups. Generally, former athletes with high post-baccalaureate accomplishments were also likely to have higher ratings on the Life Values scales, indicating they were more likely to feel free from constraints and to feel an enhanced ability to grow and express themselves as individuals. Non-athletes who had accomplished much since graduation had markedly shorter elapsed times from college entry to baccalaureate, and their career aspirations (1972) more closely matched their most recent occupation (1986). ^