Last week, we looked at some of the difficulties that University of Dallas student athletes face in their pursuit of academic and athletic excellence. If these difficulties are significant, there should be noticeable consequences: for example, in retention rates.
Of the students who enter freshman year as student-athletes, how many are still student-athletes by their sophomore year? By their senior year?
By looking at the archives of UD sports rosters, I was able to record how many freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors were on each team each season, and thus was able to calculate two statistics of particular interest: Sophomore Retention (SR) and Graduation Retention (GR).
By determining, over the course of several years, how many freshman athletes went on to play during their sophomore season, and then during their senior season, we can get a total SR or GR for a school.
There are, of course, a few caveats. The archiving of sports rosters is often inconsistent, so sometimes a player will be listed twice in the same season in different classes, or a graduate student will be listed as a freshman.
Furthermore, the SR and GR are very crude measures. They do not take into account transfers in or out of the school, or students who choose to skip a season to go to their preferred Rome semester. But I believe that they are generally indicative of significant trends.
Using this method, I found that the SR at UD is about 70 percent, and the GR is about 50 percent. This was somewhat surprising to me, since, as a non-athlete, I had always assumed that athletes were, in general, “athletes for life.”
It turns out, however, that about half of our freshman athletes leave the team before senior year.
The next step was to apply the same process to other schools in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC).
Trinity University boasted an SR of 87 percent and a GR of 64 percent.
Texas Lutheran University (TLU) drew about level with UD with an SR of 70 percent and a GR of 52 percent.
Austin College showed the greatest disparity in numbers with an 80 percent SR and a 27 percent GR, but their roster archives only go back a few years, and thus yield a somewhat unreliable GR.
Given limited data, and the approximations inherent in the method, it is difficult to make strong claims about these results. There is, however, evidence to suggest that UD has lower student-athlete retention than other SCAC schools. This may be reason for someone with a higher pay grade to conduct a more comprehensive evaluation of the situation.
Even if further study shows that UD does have a lower retention rate, this would not prove that harder academics at UD drive students out of athletics, or that UD student-athletes are less dedicated to their sports. It only further suggests that somehow, it is harder to be a student and an athlete at UD.
Have any comments, questions or suggestions for our columnist? Interested in the calculations referenced in this article? Please contact Joseph Roth at firstname.lastname@example.org.