Report: ASU athletes not ‘clustered’ in same majors
by Anna Oakes
Appalachian State University leaders on Friday said they are
“very pleased” with a report conducted by the university’s internal auditor
that finds student-athlete clustering is not occurring at ASU.
According to a Sept. 20 letter from Director of Internal
Audits Michael Stanley addressed to ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock and the Board of
Trustees chairman, “in a university academic setting, ‘clustering’ occurs when
a large percentage of players, defined by researchers as having 25 percent or
more of an athletic team, share one major.”
Researchers say this happens as a result of coaches or
school administrators steering athletes toward courses and majors that will
keep them eligible to compete or simply as the natural result of a like-minded
student population seeking out majors that reflect its interest, the letter
Stanley presented the report’s findings at Friday’s Board of
Trustees meeting. Peacock said he asked the audits office to conduct a review
in light of the academic fraud scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The state’s flagship university came under fire earlier this
year when an internal investigation and media reports found that 54 courses in
the university’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies, primarily
filled with student-athletes, were offered irregularly and provided little
classroom instruction or assignments.
“I can look at them in Chapel Hill and say I do not believe
we have this at Appalachian,” Peacock said. “They want me to show them the
The review compared majors of student-athletes to the
overall student population for six academic sessions between the first summer
session of 2011 and the second summer session of 2012. During this time period,
ASU’s 508 student-athletes declared 96 majors, or 44.5 percent of the 216
The majors having the greatest percent of student athletes
were communications studies, 10.1 percent; strength and conditioning, 10.2
percent; health promotion, 10.9 percent; business and marketing education, 14.3
percent; trade and industry, 33 percent; and health education/secondary education,
35.3 percent. In the latter two majors, however, one student-athlete was among
three total trade and industry majors, while six student-athletes were among 17
total health education/secondary education majors.
“We analyzed these two situations … and concluded that the
total of seven student-athletes representing six different men’s and women’s
teams in these two majors does not constitute clustering,” Stanley’s letter
On the men’s football team, student-athletes declared 40
majors with 10 students undeclared for an average of 3.02 student-athletes per
major, the report stated. In men’s basketball, student-athletes declared 10
majors with three students undeclared, an average of 1.08 student-athletes per
“This similar diversified stratification appears among all
other Appalachian State University NCAA-sanctioned teams with an average of 3.8
student-athletes per major,” the report said.
According to the report’s cover letter, “Our analysis of the
data did not indicate clustering within any athletic team. The student-athletes
at Appalachian pursue a diverse and varied course of study. We found there to
be sufficient institutional oversight and governance concerning the
student-athletes and the policies and procedures concerning Appalachian’s
program of intercollegiate athletics.”
The Office of Internal Audits also examined the transcripts
of current student-athletes who were enrolled in courses taught by either Cindy
Wallace (vice chancellor for student development) or Charlie Cobb (Athletics
director). The two administrators were among six instructors that taught
courses with more than 25 percent student-athletes during the report period.
Wallace taught Polarized Politics, in which seven out of 25
students (28 percent) were student-athletes. The course is offered as a
First-Year Seminar class, which is required for all freshmen at ASU.
Cobb taught Leadership in Athletics, in which 24 of 25
students (96 percent) were student-athletes. The course is geared toward
high-performing student-athletes. “The students are responsible for attendance,
participation in discussion, review of materials and two written papers,” the
The auditors also examined 17 transcripts of
student-athletes who left ASU to play professional football or basketball.
“Our analysis of the transcripts, along with the assistance of the university registrar, did not indicate any grade anomalies for the purpose of maintaining NCAA eligibility that would warrant further review,” the report said. “We therefore conclude … that the transcripts did not indicate that grades were manipulated.”