Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Elizabeth I. Johnson

Committee Members

Heidi E. Stolz, Spencer B. Olmstead


As college athletics has grown during the last two decades, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing institution of college athletics in the United States, has renewed its focus on academic reform and the academic performance of student-athletes (Petr & McArdle, 2012). Athletic administrators and academic support units have started to exert a greater amount of control over student-athletes’ academic lives. However, research with general samples of college students has suggested that having some degree of autonomy is important for academic performance. This raises questions about whether increased control (and reduced autonomy) is actually in the best interest of student-athletes’ academic well-being. This study addresses these questions by asking whether perceived autonomy relates to grade point average (GPA) in a sample of 83 male and female college student-athletes and by exploring the potential mediating role of intrinsic motivation. Results of logistic regression analyses indicate that the more academic autonomy a student-athlete has, the more likely he or she will have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Results do not, however, suggest that the effects of autonomy are mediated by intrinsic motivation, which raises questions about how and why autonomy is important for academic performance. Results are discussed in terms of implications for practitioners who work with college student-athletes to help improve academic performance.

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