Academics and Ability in College Sports: How Athletes Are Performing in 2022 — Bashar Hanna

Bashar Hanna
4 min readDec 22, 2022

In the world of college sports, there has been a debate for years about academics versus athletic ability. How much importance should be placed on athletes succeeding in the classroom? And how does this compare to their success on the field or court? Here’s a look at how athletes performed academically in 2022 and some of the top schools for athletes earning degrees. We will also discuss some of the challenges that schools face when it comes to balancing academics and athletics.

Recruiting Starts in High School

The recruitment process for college athletes starts in high school. Schools look at student-athletes’ academic transcripts, athletic ability, and character to determine who is the right fit for their program. There is a lot of pressure on schools to seek the best athletic talent. As a result, some recruiters may only focus on an athlete’s skill set and overlook academics altogether.

On paper, D1 schools rank a student’s grades as 9.3 out of 10 when asked about how they value traits during recruitment. However, overall, a student-athlete’s grades come fourth on the list of priorities after athleticism, playmaking, and leadership. And that’s assuming that recruiters are being completely honest and transparent when answering and ranking these things.

Getting into College on Athletic Versus Academic Ability

What are the academic expectations for college athletes? Generally, the NCAA requires that student-athletes be academically eligible to participate in their sport. To be eligible, they must have a minimum GPA and obtain minimum scores on certain standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT. Athletes who do not meet these criteria may still be admitted, but they will likely have more stringent academic requirements to remain eligible in the sport.

What Are the Academic Expectations for College Athletes?

Colleges expect a certain level of academic performance from their athletes. This includes being able to pass classes with satisfactory grades, meet GPA requirements, graduate within four years (or five if needed) and adhere to eligibility guidelines set by the NCAA or other organizations related to college sports, such as conference rules.

What Academic Supports Do Athletes Receive?

Colleges understand that student-athletes need academic support in order to achieve their goals. As a result, many universities have established learning centers or tutoring programs to help athletes with time management, essay writing, and course material. Some colleges even offer college readiness classes specifically tailored for student-athletes. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA has shifted its focus to provide more holistic support to student-athletes. This “Life Skills” initiative was designed to help student-athletes with three core values: “academic achievement, athletic success, and personal well-being for a successful future.”

Graduation Rates in the Top College Sports in 2022

In the year 2022, the overall single-year rate remained the same as the previous year at 90 percent. Black student-athletes graduated at a record-high rate of 81 percent. However, of the four major men’s college sports (football, basketball, baseball, and ice hockey), the one with the highest graduation rate is hockey, which skews toward white athletes versus those of color. While men’s football and basketball still have lower rates, overall, these numbers are rising.

Top Schools for Athletes Earning Degrees

The top schools for athletes getting degrees in 2022 came from the “Patriot League,” a collection of schools in the Northeast. They were Bucknell (99 percent), Holy Cross (98 percent), and Colgate and Loyola Maryland (97 percent). Boston University, Lehigh, and Navy all had an athlete graduation rate of 95 percent or higher. The national student-athlete Graduation Success Rate released by the NCAA is 89.

Are College Athletes Prepared for the Real World outside of Sports?

College athletics is often seen as a pathway to success in the real world outside of sports. But are college athletes ready to transition into the workforce after they graduate? For many student-athletes, the answer is yes. Studies have shown that college athletes tend to more successful in landing their first jobs than non-athletes. They also may be more prepared for team dynamics and the interpersonal skills necessary for success in the professional world.

How Can Schools Improve Academic Balance for Their Athletes?

Schools should strive to strike a balance between athletics and academics. This includes recruiting student-athletes who have both the athletic talent and academic chops to be successful at their university. It also means providing plenty of resources and support systems for athletes, such as tutoring services, counseling sessions, and other skills and tools that can help them excel in the classroom. Ultimately, if schools focus on academic excellence just as much as athletics, then college sports will become increasingly beneficial for all involved.


As of 2022, there has been an improvement in terms of graduation rates among college athletes. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that student-athletes are given the resources, support systems, and academic guidance they need to reach their full potential. Schools should continue to strive for a balance between athletics and academics to create an environment where college athletes can thrive both on and off the court or field.

Originally published at on December 22, 2022.



Bashar Hanna

Dr. Bashar Hanna has spent nearly four years as the president and chief executive officer of Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg University.