Athletes Show Huge Gaps in SAT Scores

On average, football players at big programs scored 220 points lower than classmates, study shows.

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Now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has gone ahead and quantified that by comparing average SAT scores and grade-point averagesGPAs of athletes with the rest of the college's student body. Not surprisingly, football and men's basketball players came out on the bottom, and some averaged hundreds of points lower on SATs than their classmates.

The Journal-Constitution studied 54 public universities, "including the members of the six major Bowl Championship Series conferences and other schools whose teams finished the 2007-08 season ranked among the football or men's basketball top 25."

We all suspect that big-time student athletes sometimes aren't the best and the brightest academically.

Some highlights:

  • Football players average 220 points lower on the SAT than their classmates. Men's basketball was 227 points lower.
  • University of Florida won the prize for biggest gap between football players and the student body, with players scoring 346 points lower than their peers.
  • Georgia Tech had the nation's best average SAT score for football players, 1028 of a possible 1600, and best average high school GPA, 3.39 of a possible 4.0. But because its student body is apparently very smart, Tech's football players still scored 315 SAT points lower than their classmates.
  • UCLA, which has won more NCAA championships in all sports than any other school, had the biggest gap between the average SAT scores of athletes in all sports and its overall student body, at 247 points.

Some "universal truths," according to the Journal-Constitution:

All 53 schools for which football SAT scores were available had at least an 88-point gap between team members' average score and the average for the student body.

Schools with the highest admissions standards, such as Georgia Tech, the University of Virginia, the University of California-Berkeley, UCLA, and the University of North Carolina, had the biggest gaps between the SAT averages for athletes and the overall student body.

Football players performed 115 points worse on the SAT than male athletes in other sports.

The differences between athletes' and non-athletes' SAT scores were less than half as big for women (73 points) as for men (170).

Many schools routinely used a special admissions process to admit athletes who did not meet the normal entrance requirements. More than half of scholarship athletes at the University of Georgia, the University of Wisconsin, Clemson University, UCLA, Rutgers University, Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University were special admits. . . At Georgia, for instance, 73.5 percent of athletes were special admits compared with 6.6 percent of the student body as a whole.

At a glance, here are the top 10 highest and lowest schools based on the average SAT scores of football players (out of a maximum 1600 score):



School, Average

  • Georgia Tech, 1028
  • Oregon State, 997
  • Michigan, 997
  • Virginia, 993
  • Purdue, 974
  • Indiana, 973
  • Hawaii, 968
  • California, 967
  • Colorado, 966
  • Iowa, 964


  • School, Average
  • Oklahoma State, 878
  • Louisville, 878
  • Memphis, 890
  • Florida, 890
  • Texas Tech, 901
  • Arkansas, 910
  • Texas A&M, 911
  • Mississippi State, 911
  • Washington State, 916
  • Michigan State, 917