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James Tompsett and Chris Knoester

Understandings of who plays college sports are dominated by assumptions that lack academic scrutiny. Using the Education Longitudinal Study (N = 7,810) and multilevel modeling, this study examines the extent to which high school indicators of family socioeconomic statuses, athletic development and merit, academic expectations and knowledge, and school contexts predict the likelihood of becoming a college athlete. The authors find evidence that supports our understanding of the process of becoming a college athlete being shaped by family socioeconomic status. Still, high school sport participation characteristics, academic expectations and knowledge, and school contexts also seem to offer independent contributions to the odds of becoming a college athlete. Overall, these results suggest that college athletic opportunities are not simply a function of athletic merit, based on unique analyses of quantitative empirical evidence from a large national sample of high school students.