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Athletes Attend Classes More, Get Worse Grades


Photo by mrehan / CC BY-SA 2.0

Student-athletes are getting worse grades than ever before. 

According to a study conducted by the Wharton Behavioral Lab, the academic performance of student-athletes at Penn is at an all-time low despite the fact that they are now attending their classes much more regularly in the absence of official practice and competition. 

It had been over a full year since the Quakers had their last official competition — a full year since the last basket at the Palestra and the last touchdown at Franklin Field. Fortunately, Penn has just moved into Phase IV, in which the Red and Blue has been allowed to compete against local universities. Just a semester ago, the University suspended all athletic activities, meaning the Quakers were not allowed to meet as a team, let alone practice or compete.

Only able to practice and work out on their own without the opportunity for competition, student-athletes have found themselves with much more free time on their hands. And as they attend an Ivy League institution, student-athletes at Penn filled this free time by actually going to class.

But somehow, their grades have been much, much worse. 

Although the Wharton Behavioral Lab has yet to provide a reason behind this phenomenon, they have come out with a few hypotheses as to why student-athletes are performing worse in the classroom. Maybe it’s psychological. Maybe courses at Penn became more difficult. But that does not explain why other students have not seen any major differences in their grades. Or maybe student-athletes just are not cut out for this type of lifestyle — regularly attending classes that is. Whatever the reason may be, one thing is certain: Student-athletes are unquestionably performing worse academically as a result of increasingly attending their classes. 

The Wharton Behavioral Lab specified one particular class where this phenomenon was most evident. GEOL 103: "Natural Disturbances & Human Disasters," a class dubbed “Rocks for Jocks,” boasts a class size of 200, more than half of which are student-athletes. During this past semester, there was an unmatched level of attendance — nearly 90% attendance for every lecture, an unprecedented achievement. And yet, the class average dropped more than an entire letter grade from previous semesters. 

In order to be fully eligible to compete in intercollegiate athletics, student-athletes must keep their GPAs above a 2.0, among other requirements. However, after the virtual fall semester, during which student-athletes attended their classes like never before, many Quakers are surprisingly at risk of losing their athletic eligibility. If they want to compete in any upcoming season, the Red and Blue are going to have to do considerably better inside the classroom. Or maybe they should start skipping classes again — that seemed to have gotten the job done in the past. Whatever the solution is, student-athletes need to find it quick or Penn will have to go without sports for another year.

Better step it up, student-athletes.