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Sports Are Deciding Factor For Tv Package Subscribers Survey Finds

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Chances are the person who comes to mind is a football or basketball player at a powerhouse Division I school like Louisiana State University or the University of Kentucky. Maybe the player resembles, say, Joel Embiid, who turned a chiseled, 7-foot frame into a full-ride scholarship at the University of Kansas before ascending to NBA stardom.

But the typical student athlete more often plays a less blockbuster sport—lacrosse, maybe, or tennis—and in many cases comes from a well-to-do family that has shelled out thousands and thousands of dollars over the years to nurture a budding athletic talent.

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The most visible college athletes—the ones running across bar-TV screens or in full-color photographs on newspaper sports pages—tend to be black. Indeed, college football and basketball players skew disproportionately African American.

All applicants to Harvard are ranked on a scale of one to six based on their academic qualifications, and athletes who scored a four were accepted at a rate of about 70 percent.

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Yet the admit rate for nonathletes with the same score was 0. Similarly, 83 percent of athletes with a top academic score got an acceptance letter, compared with 16 percent of nonathletes.

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Legacy admissions policies get a lot of flak for privileging white applicants, but athletes have a much bigger effect on admissions, and make up a much bigger percentage of the class.

Read: What the Harvard trial is really about Put another way, college sports at elite schools are a quiet sort of affirmative action for affluent white kids, and play a big role in keeping these institutions so stubbornly white and affluent.

When it comes to college athletics, football and basketball command the most public attention, but in the background is a phalanx of lower-profile sports favored by white kids, which often cost a small fortune for a student participating at a top level.

Eighty-five percent of college lacrosse players were white, as well as 90 percent of ice-hockey players. And the cost of playing these sports can be sky high. Kids from low-income families participate in youth sports at almost half the rate of affluent families, according to a report from the Aspen Institute.

But there are other, more veiled factors that may also boost the numbers of white college athletes.

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Michele Hernandez Bayliss, a private college counselor and a former assistant admissions dean at Dartmouth College, walked me through the process: Over the summer, coaches compile lists of the athletes they want, which they then share with the admissions office.

In a recently published study in the Harvard Educational Review, Hextrum interviewed 47 athletes at an unnamed elite, Division I college about how they earned a coveted spot at the university. Yet, according to the NCAA , at all but 20 colleges, athletics programs lose more money than they make.

That raises a baffling question: Why are colleges willing to lower their admissions standards to recruit the best athletes when their expensive sports programs are unlikely to return the investment?

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Read: The March Madness application bump Incidental marketing aside, sports can also make a college seem more attractive to its students.

Football, especially.

However, actually picking a service type and provider is easier said than done. Customers who subscribe to one or the other are often devoted to their selected option, but overall quality and satisfaction may differ depending on a variety of factors.

Part of it is the power of tradition: For more than a century, colleges—starting with elite schools in the Northeast—have fixated on physical activity and sports as a way to mold young, impressionable students to their making.

And, still, colleges need to field a minimum number of sports to join a particular conference, such as the Ivy League, which prevents them from putting all their cards on the table for high-profile sports exclusively.

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We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. Saahil Desai is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers politics and policy.

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