Athletic Academic Advising for Revenue Sports: A Unique Challenge

Maggie Hinson, University of Memphis

Academic advising is a unique field in the sense that advisers often play multiple roles.  Some of the roles that are commonly associated with this discipline are mentor, guide, confidant, and teacher (Gordon, Habley, & Grites, 2008, p. 86). Academic advisers are presented with unique opportunities to form relationships with students with diverse backgrounds and circumstances. These backgrounds and circumstances include those of international students, students with disabilities, nontraditional students, first-generation college students, and student-athletes. Each group presents a distinct set of challenges and requires advisers to adapt and relate to the needs of each group as well as to individual students.

Student-athletes are especially unique because of the added difficulty of adjusting to student life at a college or university as well as adjusting to the rigors of a college athletic program. Some of the challenges could be learning a new playbook, increasing practice times, traveling for competitions, and attending team meetings. These activities magnify the social and academic demands of successfully integrating into the institution setting in general.

To be eligible to compete and practice, a student-athlete must be enrolled in a minimum or twelve credit hours per semester and, effective recently, must pass at least nine credit hours during each of those semesters (Gordon et al., 2008, p. 197). If a student-athlete does not pass all twenty-four hours before the next academic year begins, courses can be taken during the summer to complete the requirement. This requires advisers to help student-athletes plan far in advance for summer session courses. Along with staying in good academic standing with their respective university, student-athletes must maintain certain GPAs designated by the NCAA.  These designations include: a minimum cumulative GPA of 1.8 following their first year, 1.9 at the beginning of the junior year, and a 2.0 GPA once senior standing is reached (Gordon et al., 2008, p. 197). In addition to the GPA requirements, student-athletes must maintain a certain annual progress rate. These requirements include: completing 40 percent of the required courses towards the completion of their chosen program prior to the beginning of their third year, 60 percent by the beginning of their fourth year, and 80 percent by the beginning of the fifth year (Gordon et al., 2008, p. 197). Finally, student-athletes must have declared a major before beginning their junior year.

Student-athletes have significant time commitments outside of the classroom and beyond practice and competitions. This is especially true for student-athletes in revenue sports, such as basketball and football. For instance, football and basketball athletes often spend extensive time watching film, conditioning, and meeting with coaches and trainers.  Although the NCAA regulates that student-athletes have only twenty hours to devote to their designated sport per week, at many Division 1 programs, this rule is often ignored (Brett, 2005). Many student-athletes shoulder such high expectations and demands as athletes that academics take a backseat.

Maintaining eligibility is one of the primary concerns of student-athletes and their respective coaching staffs.  This can sometimes come at the cost of what student-athletes want to study.  Rather than encouraging student-athletes to pick a major they would like to obtain a degree in, many are directed towards programs that are easier and eligibility is easier to maintain (Grasgreen, 2012).  A conflict can exist between a student-athlete actually getting an education and degree in an area that suits their personal needs and maintaining their eligibility to play sports.  The adviser plays a key role in this situation and must help student-athletes make informed decisions regarding major choice.

The media attention that basketball and football players often receive is an additional aspect that can influence the development and socialization of student-athletes. During televised collegiate athletic competitions, commentators often take time to speak about individual plays and particularly recognize the stars of the teams. This exposure in the media can lead to obstacles in creating a positive self-identity (Kramer, 2008). Rather than receiving positive reinforcement for their academic abilities, student-athletes often receive more recognition for their athletic abilities. This can make it difficult for academic advisers to ensure that student-athletes see themselves as students first and athletes second.

In terms of socialization into the student body, student-athletes can have more difficulty because of isolation, athletic expectations, time requirements, and traveling to and from competitions (Kramer, 2008). The culture of these programs creates an environment in which the team serves as a family, and student-athletes only interact and socialize with their teammates (Kramer, 2008). To understand the specific needs of student-athletes who participate in revenue sports, advisers need to understand the culture that exists around college teams, the athletic time commitments, NCAA policies, and the media scrutiny the athletes endure. The significant time commitments that student-athletes face while participating in revenue sports make balancing academics, athletics, and a personal life tremendously difficult. If advisers can be mindful of this and be patient with their students, they can establish successful working relationships. If advisers can do this, they can develop relationships with student-athletes more easily, and the working relationship will benefit to both the student-athlete and the adviser.


Brett, M. J. (2005). A qualitative analysis of revenue producing sport student-athletes’ perceptions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from

Gordon, V. N., Habley, W. R., & Grites, T. J. (2008). Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook. (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Grasgreen, A. (2012). Tough choices for athletes’ advisers. Inside HighEd. Retrieved from

Kramer, D. A. (2008). Huddle up: A phenomenological approach to understanding the impact of intercollegiate athletic participation of the academic socialization of male revenue-generating student-athletes. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from

About the Author(s)

Maggie Hinson, University of Memphis

Maggie Hinson is an academic intern with the Center for Athletic Academic Services at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee. She can be reached at

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    Celia Newman

    Good job Maggie!! Great article!


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