3/26: Many Fans Think College Sports Programs Break NCAA Rules

Marist Center for Sports Communication/Marist National Poll

March Madness is in full swing, and with all eyes on the road to the Final Four, sports fans nationwide are weighing in on the nature of college sports.

Click Here for Complete March 26, 2013 USA Poll Release and Tables

More than two-thirds of sports fans nationally — 67% — think it is common practice for college sports programs to break NCAA rules when recruiting and training college athletes.  26% believe the rules are not broken often, and 7% are unsure.

This Marist Poll has been done in conjunction with The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.

There has been an increase in the proportion of sports fans nationally who say college athletic programs cross the line in their recruiting and training programs.  When Marist last reported this question in March of 2012, 55% said it is common for college sports officials to break the NCAA rules.  35% disagreed, and 10% were unsure.

Should the business of college sports trump education?  Overwhelmingly, most sports fans say, “no.”  95% of fans believe college athletes should be required to attend class and focus on their studies while just 5% of fans say college sports has become a business, and student athletes should focus on training and not be required to go to class.

“Most sports fans still enjoy the notion of amateurism in college athletics,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.  “They largely don’t want college athletes paid beyond a scholarship, and they overwhelmingly want them to attend classes like other students.”

Table: College Sports’ Programs Recruiting Practices

Table: The Business of College Sports

Show Them the Money?

What is the appropriate compensation for top college athletes?  More than seven in ten sports fans — 72% — think these athletes should only receive a scholarship.  21% believe they deserve a scholarship and a salary while 6% say they should neither receive a scholarship nor a salary.

In last year’s survey, 68% of sports fans reported a scholarship sufficed.  27% said a scholarship plus a salary was the appropriate compensation while 5% thought these athletes should neither receive a scholarship nor a salary.

What about the salaries for college coaches in top sports programs?  A slim majority of sports fans — 51% — say they should be paid less than coaches in professional sports programs.  45% say college coaches should be paid about the same amount as professional coaches while 3% think they should be paid more.

There is increasing support for top college coaches to receive the same pay as their professional counterparts.  In March of 2012, nearly six in ten sports fans — 57% — thought college coaches should be paid less.  39% said they should receive about the same salary as professional coaches, and 4% believed they should be paid more than professional coaches.

Table: Compensation for Top College Athletes

Table: Salaries for Coaches of Top College Sports’ Programs

T-R-O-U-B-L-E…Playing the Blame Game

When college athletes get into trouble, who should be held most responsible?  Seven in ten sports fans nationally — 70% — think the athletes should take the blame.  16% say their coaches should be held accountable, and 12% say college presidents and the school’s administration should take the heat.  Three percent are unsure.

Just how many Americans are sports fans?  62% of adults are while 38% are not.  Little has changed on this question since Marist last reported it in December.  At that time, 60% of residents considered themselves to be a sports fan while 40% said they were not.

Table: Who’s Responsible When College Athletes Get into Trouble?

Table: Sports Fans Nationally

Nothing But Net…Number of NCAA Men’s Teams on the Mark, Say More Than Three in Four

77% of college basketball fans think the number of teams in the NCAA men’s tournament is about right.  One in five — 20% — say the 68 teams are too many while just 3% say the number is too few.

Similar proportions of college basketball fans held these views last March when 78% said the number of teams was appropriate.  18% believed there were too many, and 4% believed there were too few.

Nearly half of adults nationally — 48% — follow college basketball, at least, some of the time.  Included here are 30% who check out the sport a little, 10% who watch a good amount of it, and 8% who follow a great deal of it.  51% do not watch college basketball at all.

There has been a slight bump in the proportion of college basketball fans.  In March of 2012, 43% reported following the sport, at least, a little bit.  56%, at that time, said they did not watch college basketball at all.

Table: Number of Teams in NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

Table: College Basketball Fans Nationally

How the Survey was Conducted

Nature of the Sample

 About Keith Strudler, Ph.D.

Keith Strudler, Ph.D., is the director for the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.  Dr. Strudler founded Marist’s popular concentration in sports communication in 2002, now one of the nation’s largest in the discipline.  He studies and teaches in the areas of sports media, sports and society, and sports reporting and information.  Dr. Strudler also writes weekly sports commentary for WAMC, an NPR radio station in Albany, NY.