College Athletes’ SAT and IQ Scores

athletic scholarships photoThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution just did a report on student athletes’ SAT scores.[1]The article no longer appears to exist on ATJ’s website. See reference to it on U.S. News and World Report: Through a public records request, they found average SAT scores for entering freshmen students, athletes, and football players, for public universities in different athletic conferences. Not surprisingly, athletes’ SAT scores tended to lag behind the average scores of university students. This was particularly true for football players, as their average SAT scores were some of the lowest. Obviously, football and scholastic aptitude infrequently go together.

But a SAT score is more than a proprietary college admissions number — it can also be used as a proxy for IQ, or general intelligence. Back in 2004, Meredith Frey and Douglas Detterman published a paper in the Psychological Science journal where they correlated SAT scores with the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM)–both of which are used to estimate IQ, and correlate strongly with other intelligence tests. Two equations were derived for predicting IQ from SAT scores. However, only one proved to be reliable for post-1994 SATs, as the test underwent significant changes and scores were recentered that year.

XIQ = (0.095 * SAT-Math) + (-0.003 * SAT-Verbal) + 50.241

Using this equation, the correlation between SAT and Raven’s APM scores was found to be .72 after adjusting for a restricted sample range (n=116, σ=119). To verify the stability of the equation, a jackknife procedure was undertaken where the equation is derived from on one-half the sample, tested on the second-half, then repeated vice versa. Correlations from the two tests were .523 and .542, respectively (p < .01).

I took this equation and applied it to the SAT scores listed in the AJC report. Of course, only composite scores were reported. So, I found the average verbal and math scores for each testing year, and calculated each score’s percentage of the total. These percentages were used to find a rough estimate of students’ and athletes’ average subscores. Both male and female averages were utilized for the student population, whereas only average male subscores were included for athletes and football players, as these two groups are predominately male.

The SAT scores and estimated IQs for students, athletes, and football players, from 54 public universities, in eight division conferences, can be found below:

SAT Scores and Estimated IQs for Students and Student Athletes

SchoolConf.Student SATAthlete SATFootball SATStudent IQAthlete IQFootball IQ
NC StateACC11821031926105.298.393.4
North CarolinaACC12681080951109.410094.1
Florida StateACC11551012917104.197.593
Georgia TechACC134411091028112.910298.2
Virginia TechACC12001072951106.2100.294.6
Oklahoma StateBig 121103971878101.594.390.1
Iowa StateBig 1211331058922102.998.992.6
Kansas StateBig 1210851024100.697.3
ColoradoBig 121127975966102.795.795.3
NebraskaBig 1211291010962102.897.495.1
MissouriBig 1211641062942104.599.293.7
OklahomaBig 121158999920104.396.392.7
TexasBig 1212301037948107.698.694.4
Texas A&MBig 1211571001911104.296.992.7
Texas TechBig 121120968901102.49692.8
LouisvilleBig East103797387898.49590.6
RutgersBig East11841061938105.599.293.5
CincinnatiBig East1064103993599.898.793.9
South FloridaBig East1099993932101.596.593.7
SyracuseBig East11851045922105.59993.2
ConnecticutBig East11871023956105.598.695.4
WisconsinBig Ten12071065961106.298.593.8
MichiganBig Ten12641148997109103.196.1
Ohio StateBig Ten11631050955104.398.594.2
IndianaBig Ten11031042973101.798.395.1
IowaBig Ten11241036964102.79894.7
Michigan StateBig Ten11161017917102.397.192.5
IllinoisBig Ten12411053952108.110095.2
MinnesotaBig Ten11501062936103.8100.494.5
PurdueBig Ten11571062974104.1100.496.3
Arizona StatePac-1010861003937100.695.792.7
Oregon StatePac-1010851012997100.696.195.5
Washington StatePac-10104099491698.595.992.3
South CarolinaSEC1101996932101.49693.1
Mississippi StateSEC10881004911100.997.192.8

This table and more details can be found in this spreadsheet:

S&P 500 Total Yearly and Monthly Returns (Dividends Reinvested) (XLSX) (57.8 kB)


In terms of conferences as a whole, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) ranked first in average IQ for students and athletes, while the Big Ten conference took first for football players, with an average of 94.7. The Big 12 conference had both the athletes and football players with the lowest average IQ, at 97.1 and 93.3 respectively. The Big East had the students with the lowest IQ, averaging 102.7. Conference-USA and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) are not included in that ranking as only one school was represented from each.

The schools with the largest gaps in SAT and IQ scores were Florida State and UCLA. Florida´s SAT and IQ gap was 346 and 16.1, respectively. UCLA was 345 and 16.5. AJC´s Mark Knobler noted that these gaps between football players and students are larger than in typical students between the University of Georgia and Harvard University. Oregon State had the smallest SAT and IQ gap — 88 and 5.2 points, respectively.

Surprisingly though, basketball players were even worse off than those specializing in the pigskin.

Nationwide, football players average 220 points lower on the SAT than their classmates — and men’s basketball players average seven points less than football players.

Sports are big business for these universities. Coaches rotate on what seems like a quadrennial basis, often making more than the presidents of their universities. Their temporary, high paid tenures and golden parachutes are analogous to that of many high profile CEOs. As for players, admission requirements for typical students rarely have any relevancy for talented athletes, who may even receive all-expenses paid scholarships in addition to enrollment with GPA and SAT/ACT scores that are below minimum acceptance.

And, there are also other examples of sports dominating and superseding university policies.

I know that Mississippi State University, an SEC school, provides free daily tutoring, specifically, for all athletes—the civilian student body need not apply. And should an athlete’s GPA fall below minimum for any semester, that tutoring becomes mandatory. Again, this is not true for regular students. Another SEC school, the University of Southern Mississippi, actually closes its library a couple hours before any football game — even if the game is during the week. At USM, at least, access to football is more important than access books.

And while I am not familiar with the intricacies of other university’s sports programs, I am sure similar priorities exist for most of them as well. It is sad that for these schools, putting and keeping an athlete on the field often takes precedence over keeping a student in the classroom.

(Featured image by Daniel Morrison )

References   [ + ]

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