Data and responses from universities

CNN Analysis: Some college athletes play like adults, read like fifth-graders

By Sara Ganim, CNN
Updated Friday, May 25, 2014 5:23 p.m. ET

To get an idea of reading levels of athletes at universities, CNN consulted several experts in different fields, and then submitted open records requests for SAT and ACT entrance exam scores. CNN chose only public universities where open records laws apply. In cases where those scores were not available, we then asked for results of adult reading placement tests, used by some -- but not all -- universities after an athlete is admitted. CNN sought records from nearly 40 public universities, and got data back from 21. Each school gave us something slightly different. The feature below details what CNN received from each school and the institution's response to the findings. Related story »

University of Alabama
Arizona State University
Auburn University
Binghamton University
University of Central Florida
Clemson University
University of Connecticut
University of Florida
Florida State University
Fresno State
University of Georgia
Iowa State University
University of Kentucky
University of Louisville
Louisiana State University
University of Maryland
University of Michigan
Michigan State University
University of Mississippi
University of Missouri
University of Nebraska
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Northern Illinois University
Ohio State University
University of Oklahoma
Oklahoma State University
University of Oregon
Oregon State University
Rutgers
University of South Carolina
University of Texas
Texas A&M University
Texas Tech University
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Utah
Virginia Tech
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin, Madison
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University of Alabama



Alabama says it does not keep records, or track in any way, entrance exam scores or results of reading evaluations for athletes. The university also says it does not have a process for "special admits." There is one reading specialist on staff who works with athletes.

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Arizona State University



Arizona State denied our request for scores based on privacy laws. CNN has contacted Arizona to appeal the decision, and will update this page if we get information.

The university also said it uses an "individual review"program as part of their admissions process, but would not say how many students were accepted through that program, again, because of privacy concerns. Arizona State has one learning specialist working with athletes.

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Auburn University



Auburn says it is still processing our request for information. The university estimates it could take several months before it provides CNN with an answer. We will update this page when we get it.

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Binghamton University



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Binghamton University provided averages for athletes playing men's and women's basketball between 2007 and 2012.

The raw data of what Binghamton provided is in this chart.

CNN also compared the average athlete scores to the average freshman admitted to Binghamton in 2012.

According to collegedata.com, the average freshman scored a 630 on the SAT critical reading test, or a 29 on the ACT composite.

In 2009, Sally Dear-Healey, adjunct lecturer at Binghamton University, told the New York Times she was pressured to change grades of basketball players who were missing classes. About seven months later, she was fired, and The Times reported that Dear-Healey felt it was because she spoke out.

In regard to CNN's request for information, university spokesman Ryan Yarosh said:

"Our student body is richly diverse and represented by a wide variety of talented young men and women from all walks of life.

"As a public university, access is a vital part of our mission and we are committed to admitting and assisting all kinds of students with varying talents. It's the nature of our institution.

"We offer extensive support (advisement, tutoring - such as the Academic Excellence Center) to all University students to help ensure their success and progress towards a degree.

"Through the expansion of areas such as our student-athlete success center, as well as the development of new initiatives and programming to ensure that our student-athletes have the tools and resources to achieve academic excellence, Binghamton student-athletes have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.10 or higher in five consecutive years. Last spring, Binghamton produced a conference-best 191 members of the America East Academic Honor Roll, the eighth straight spring that Binghamton has led the way. Also, last Spring 16 out of 19 teams earned a 3.0 GPA or higher, including men's basketball (3.21 GPA) and 21 student-athletes earned a perfect 4.0 GPA."

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University of Central Florida



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 16 on the ACT, and a 400 on the SAT critical reading, or writing subtest.

The University of Central Florida provided no raw data, but gave CNN a breakdown it created, based on what we asked for in an open records request.

Here's what it provided:

Football student-athletes below 400 SAT Critical Reading/16 ACT from 2007-2012:

-- 27 of the 242 football student-athletes ((11%) admitted during that time frame scored below that benchmark

-- 4 of the 34 men's basketball student-athletes ((11%) admitted during that time frame scored below that benchmark

According to Collegedata.com, the average student admitted to the University of Central Florida scores a 617 on the SAT critical reading test, or a 27 on the composite ACT.

University response:

UCF posted an 83 percent graduation rate for football student-athletes.

The graduation rates represent an average of the four most recent six-year graduation rates available (in this case, for the freshman classes that enrolled in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006). The rates are compiled annually by UCF's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, led by Richard Lapchick.

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Clemson University



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

According to Clemson, some students who took the ACT first, later took the SAT to meet the university's requirement for having a writing sample, and therefore "did not try very hard" on the SAT when they took it. In those cases, a student was only counted if they scored below the threshold on both the SAT and the ACT.

Football

-- 34/199 scored below the threshold.

Men's basketball

-- 2/30 scored below the threshold.

Women's basketball

-- 7/26 scored below the threshold on all tests taken.

-- In total, that's 15.2%.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

According to Clemson, the average SAT verbal score for incoming freshmen in 2012: 607.

Our data shows the average SAT verbal of basketball players admitted between 2007 and 2012: 455

Average SAT verbal of football players admitted between 2007 and 2012: 477

The university declined to respond to additional questions.

See the data Clemson sent to CNN »

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University of Connecticut



A spokesperson for Connecticut says the university is still working on the request from CNN. University officials could offer no timeline on when it might have a response.

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University of Florida



Florida denied our requests, saying it does not keep records, or track in any way entrance exam scores or results of reading evaluations for athletes. Florida also said it does not have documents that would show the number of reading specialists who work with athletes, or for the number of specially admitted student-athletes.

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Florida State University



Florida State says it does not keep records regarding entrance exams of athletes, reading specialists who work with athletes, or the number of specially admitted student-athletes.

In 2009, the NCAA sanctioned Florida State after an investigation found that tutors were writing papers for athletes and giving them test answers.

That same year, former learning specialist Brenda Monk spoke to ESPN's Outside the Lines about what she saw inside FSU.

Monk told ESPN there were athletes reading at a second and third grade level at FSU, but denied writing papers for them. The NCAA had blamed Monk, in part, for some of the violations, but she disputes doing work for athletes.

Brenda Monk could not be reached for this story.

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Fresno State



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Football

-- 34/173 scored at below the threshold.

-- 61 special admits.

-- Average SAT Verbal: 447

-- Average ACT Reading and English: 18.29

Men's basketball

-- 7/39 scored below the threshold.

-- 16 special admits.

-- Average SAT Verbal: 412.60

-- Average ACT Reading and English: 17.85

Women's basketball

-- 7/37 scored below the threshold.

-- 10 special admits.

-- Average SAT Verbal: 480.43

-- Average ACT Reading and English: 9.61

In total, that's 19.2% who scored below the threshold.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

According to Collegedata.com, the average freshman admitted to the university scores between 400 and 510 on the SAT critical reading, and between 16 and 22 on the ACT.

University response from Shirley Melikian Armbruster, associate vice president of university communications.

"The NCAA Academic Progress Rates and Federal Graduation Rates are the true -- and very positive -- reflection of academic achievement of Fresno State student-athletes."

See the data Fresno State sent to CNN »

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University of Georgia



The University of Georgia provided composite test scores, meaning they included reading, math and in some cases writing, for 317 football and basketball players admitted between 2007 and 2012.

According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Most students only took one test, but if they took both, they had to score below the threshold on both tests to be counted.

22 members of the football team, and one member of each the men's and women's basketball teams scored below the threshold. That's 7.5%.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

According to collegedata.com, the average incoming freshman at UGA scored a 1,243 on the SAT verbal and 28 on the ACT.

The average athlete playing football or basketball scored a 941 on the SAT, or 18.75 on the ACT.

UGA says it does not have any reading specialists, nor does it have a document that shows how many athletes are specially admitted to the university.

The university declined to respond to CNN's request for comment.

CNN did speak to Billy Hawkins, professor at UGA and author of the book "The New Plantation."

Hawkins said he's worked with student athletes for more than 15 years, previously at Iowa and Northern Illinois University, and now at UGA. He said he's always seen athletes come in at reading levels below what's expected of a college freshman.

"It was 7th and 8th grade level, some at the 6th grade level," he said. "I mentor athletes at UGA and they're in my classes. there are differences across the board. There's reading and writing differences, compared to the regular student body. One thing I've written about quite a bit, when you think about the demand placed on them and given their lack of academic prep, it's a no-win situation."

He said he's witnessed high turnover with academic advisors.

And the athletes, he said, "a lot of them are majoring in eligibility."

Hawkins says he sees it as another form of cheating.

"It's too much for students reading below a college level. It's basically a farce," he said. "Students I mentor, many of them are doing well academically, but again it's under this whole umbrella of maintaining eligibility and I think image construction."

See the data Georgia sent to CNN »

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Iowa State University



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Iowa State provided 420 sets of scores for athletes playing football and men's and women's basketball between 2007 and 2012.

Most students only took one test, but if they took both, the score was only counted if they scored below the threshold on both.

Of the 420, 48 scored at or below the college literacy threshold. That's 11.4%.

We did not include students for whom no scores were reported.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

According to Collegedata, the average incoming freshman at Iowa State scored between 460 and 620 on the SAT critical reading test, or an average of 25 on the ACT composite.

The average athlete score provided to CNN by Iowa State is a 451 on the SAT verbal test, or a 22 average on the ACT reading and English.

Between the fall of 2007 and the fall of 2012, 27 athletes playing men's or women's basketball were specially admitted to the university, meaning they would not have gotten in on academics alone.

University response from a conversation with Dr. Tom Hill, senior vice president for student affairs.

Hill, who said he has a background in collegiate athletics, said Iowa State makes students who are specially admitted to the university start in the summer session, during which they get extra help and remediation that is aimed at getting them up to speed before a full schedule of coursework begins in the fall.

"We'll provide them with support and help to begin the process to shore up deficiencies," Hill said. "It's not just throwing them in there."

He also stressed that the university is a land-grant institution, and takes seriously that responsibility. He said many students -- not just athletes -- come from very rural parts of Iowa in school districts where there may be 400 students in grades K-12.

"Are they getting extra help? Absolutely. The help that they may not have gotten in the 1st through 12th grade, but they're capable. ...It's not because they're not capable, it's because they haven't been exposed," Hill said. "...We have (non-athletes) who we admit under similar conditions. We put them in a similar position to support them."

The will and drive of a potential athlete is an important part of the selection process, too, Hill said. They have to want to learn, he said.

"(We are) screening very carefully, not letting just anyone in, and getting the individuals who have the potential and the desire."

A student reading below the threshold should not be at that same level when they leave. If they are, there's a problem, he said.

Unlike many schools, Hill said Iowa does not separate academic support for the general student population from academic support for athletes. All of the resources are available to both. And, Hill said, he is confident that tutors are not providing too much help for student athletes.

"We're not hiding people, nor are we trying to pass people through the system," Hill said. Those people who do that should be arrested, we should make it against the law. I know it happens. I've spent time in athletics."

See the data Iowa State sent to CNN »

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University of Kentucky



Kentucky denied our request, saying they do not keep track of athletes SAT and ACT scores. The university also said it does not have a reading specialist, and it withheld the number of specially admitted athletes, citing a federal privacy law. CNN is now requesting additional information.

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University of Louisville



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

The University of Louisville provided 316 scores of athletes playing football or basketball between 2007 and 2012 -- including non-scholarship athletes. Most athletes only took one test, but if they took both, the score was only counted if they scored below the threshold on both.

Thirty-eight scored at or below the threshold.

That's 12%.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

According to Collegedata.com, the average admitted student has a 25 on the ACT, or a 550 on the SAT Reading.

The data given to CNN shows the average athlete playing basketball or football scored a 20.4 on the ACT, or a 463.5 on the SAT.

There were 13 specially admitted athletes at the University of Louisville between 2007 and 2013.

University response from a conversation with Christine Simatacolos, associate athletic director for student life.

The scores, she said, are "not surprising."

"My background is that I most recently worked for the NCAA academic performance program, so I've seen data from other institutions."

But, Simatacolos said, scores are not the only thing taken into consideration during the admissions process. "Prep courses, GPAs, math ... there are some foreign student athletes where English might not be their first language."

"Obviously we do provide ... additional academic resources for student athletes. We have three learning specialists, we have tutors, academic advisers who track their progress in classes. Some students come to the university with diagnosed learning disabilities. Some come with undiagnosed learning disabilities.

"Our tutors are trained how to assist student athletes without doing the work. ...We provide that additional support to the students who come in with lower test scores"

Simatacolos said there is proof this can be successful.

"One of the student athletes on this list is actually in medical school right now. Both reading and English were below the threshold and he is in medical school now," she said. "That speaks to persistence and also his talents may not have been as easily transcribed to a test. Maybe reading and writing versus the sciences and math."

"I don't think we've admitted anyone who can't be successful. We anticipate that men's basketball and football APR will be the highest in the country. A perfect 1000 for the most current year reported."

See the data Louisville sent to CNN »

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Louisiana State University



LSU only provided averages of ACT scores for football players during the years noted. The university said it does not keep lists of individual ACT scores in the format of a record.

CNN then asked for records that would show reading aptitude test scores of athletes during the same time period, but LSU has not yet responded.

According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 16 on the ACT.

According to LSU, the average ACT English score for football players admitted:

-- in 2007: 18.6
-- in 2008: 17.0
-- in 2009: 18.2
-- in 2010: 18.3
-- in 2011: 20.1
-- in 2012: 18.4

According to collegedata.com, the average composite ACT score (which includes Math scores) for all admitted freshman at LSU is 25.

Basketball scores were not provided by LSU.

125 students playing football or basketball were specially admitted, meaning they would not have been admitted on academics alone.

*LSU admitted to secondary NCAA violations in 2002, following a lawsuit from an instructor and a graduate assistant who alleged they were told to change the grades of players who had plagiarized papers in order to keep the players eligible for a 2000 bowl game. The lawsuit was settled.

University statement from Kristine Calongne, assistant vice chancellor for communications:

"At LSU, we make every effort to recruit and retain top students, regardless of whether or not they compete in our athletic programs. In the past 25 years, the ACT scores of our incoming freshmen, and our graduation rates, have increased dramatically, and those numbers include our student athletes. It is important to note, however, that ACT scores alone are not the only or best predictors of student success. High school grades and the type of high school courses taken, among other factors, should be looked at in conjunction with standardized test scores.

"In October of 2013, the NCAA gave LSU athletes an overall graduation success rate of 81 percent. In particular, the LSU football program earned a score of 74 percent, which is higher than the national average of 70 percent. But we always want to do better. LSU's Academic Center for Student Athletes is a valuable resource that aids student athletes in their studies, and a variety of other tutoring and academic-assistance programs are offered to all LSU students. We work to improve these programs, and the success of our students, every single day. Graduating our students and helping them become successful citizens is one of our primary goals as Louisiana's flagship research university."

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University of Maryland



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

The University of Maryland provided CNN with scores grouped by range and by sport. Here's what the data showed.

Football 12/169 athletes scored at or below a 400 on the SAT critical reading test. 1/29 athletes scored below a 16 on the ACT English and reading. The average SAT score was 487 and the average ACT score in those subjects was 20.7

Men's & Women's basketball

-- 6/38 athletes scored at or below 400 on the SAT critical reading test.
-- 1/17 athletes scored below a 16 on the ACT English and reading.
-- The average SAT score was 488 and the average ACT score in those subjects was 19.

The middle range SAT critical reading score of all students admitted to the University of Maryland in 2012 was between 580 and 690.

The average ACT score was not available.

The university said that between 2007 and 2012, there were no more than 30 basketball players specially admitted to the university, meaning they would not have otherwise been admitted on academics alone.

The university responded by saying that the academic performance of student athletes at Maryland continues to be strong. According to the system the NCAA, all of the athletes on the Maryland men's basketball team were on track to graduate this year, and the football team's progress toward graduation rate has risen since 2010, when the svchool was penalized for having too low a rate.

"We are proud of the hard work and dedication our student-athletes have displayed in the classroom," said director of athletics Kevin Anderson. "Our commitment is to provide a culture where academic success is at the forefront of the student-athlete experience. We will continue to emphasize the importance of preparing student-athletes for profuctive, successful lives after Maryland."

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University of Michigan



Michigan denied our request, saying they don’t have documents that show the ACT or SAT scores of athletes playing football or basketball, or a document that shows the number of specially admitted athletes playing those sports. CNN appealed that decision, and Michigan said they won’t have a new response until Jan. 8. We will update this page when we get that response.

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Michigan State University



Michigan State denied our request for scores based on privacy laws. CNN is appealing that decision, and will update this page if we get information. Michigan State did say that it has one learning specialist.

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University of Mississippi



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Some athletes took both tests, and if they did, they were only counted if they scored below the threshold on both.

Football

-- 22/346 scored below the threshold.

Men's basketball

-- 8/44 scored below the threshold.

Women's basketball 2/38 scored below the threshold.

In all, about 7.5% of athletes scored at or below the threshold.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

The data provided to CNN shows the average SAT verbal test score of these athletes was 461.26 , and the average combined ACT reading and English score was 21.25

We did not include students for whom no scores were reported.

According to Collegedata.com, the average student admitted to Mississippi scores between a 480 and 600 on the SAT verbal test, or between a 21 and 27 on the ACT.

The university did not respond to questions from CNN.

See the data Mississippi sent to CNN »

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University of Missouri



Missouri denied our requests, saying it does not keep records, or track in any way entrance exam scores or results of reading evaluations for athletes. Missouri also says it does not identify students as athletes during the admissions process, but does have mentors and tutors who work with athletes on all subjects.

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University of Nebraska



Nebraska denied our requests, saying it does not keep records, or track in any way entrance exam scores or results of reading evaluations for athletes. Nebraska also says it does not identify students as athletes during the admissions process, and does not have any reading specialists.

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


On Jan. 16, UNC released an SAT and ACT score analysis in response to CNN’s investigation.

Here’s what the school said:

-- There were 341 student athletes playing football or basketball between 2004 and 2012 under the “special-talent policies,” meaning they otherwise would not have been admitted on academics alone. along.

-- Thirty-four of these student-athletes (9.97 percent) did not meet the threshold of scoring at least 400 on the SAT verbal, or 16 on the ACT reading/English tests.

-- Of those 34, 88 percent have either graduated, remain enrolled in good academic standing, or left in good academic standing.

-- Four students left in poor academic standing.

Updated January 10 to include more information from Mary Willingham's research, and more response from the university.

Of 183 athletes in revenue-generating sports admitted to UNC between 2004 and 2012:

• Between 8% and 10% were reading below a third grade level.
• About 60% were reading between the fourth and eighth grade reading levels.

That's based on her review of scores on the Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (taken after they're admitted to the university).

In addition, Willingham looked at SAT and ACT scores, and found:

• 92% scored below the low average for admissions standards at UNC
• 22% scored below a 400 on the SAT verbal test
• 37% had a 200 point gap in SAT verbal scores, compared to the average student at UNC

University response:

We asked UNC to comment specifically on Mary Willingham's research and they told us they were not aware of it, and that it wasn't part of her job to do research. But then we showed them emails between Willingham and university officials that show she had approval to conduct the research and shared her findings with university officials. UNC then told CNN they plan to meet with her to discuss what she found.

After our story aired, UNC disavowed Willingham's claims that she has worked with several student athletes who were reading at a very low level.

CNN also talked to UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham.

Cunningham said he's confident in the admissions process at UNC, and that the university is making sure that only students who can do the work are admitted.

"I think our students have an exceptions experience in the classroom as well as on the fields of competition," he said.

Cunningham became the athletic director in November 2011, following an academic scandal at UNC, and since he said the university has put into place many reforms. Of them, he said is an "academic working group," which will "take a look at every process we have that touches a student, from recruiting to admissions enrollment to registrations to counseling to advising. I think it's going to be a wonderful process that the entire university can embrace."

"I think that we admit students who can do the work," Cunningham said. "I have great confidence in our faculty committee that reviews our applications, … Now we also are highly competitive, and our students have to compete Monday through Friday as well as they do on Saturday and I think the ones who are really committed to being outstanding students, they are."

Update:

In April, UNC released the reports of three experts hired by the university to analyze Willingham's data. Each found flaws in her findings on athlete literacy. All three found that it's possible Willingham misread the findings and inaccurately assigned a grade level to the scores. (Read full story)

Willingham said she stands by her work, and says she personally worked with the athletes in her study.

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Northern Illinois University



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 or below on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

Some athletes only took one test, but if they took both, the score was only counted if they scored below the threshold on both.

Football team:

Out of 244 total sets of scores provided (some students took both the SAT and ACT):

-- Twenty-two athletes scored a 16 or below on both the ACT English and ACT Reading. One athlete who additionally took the SAT test also scored below a 400 on the verbal section. An additional 8 who only took the SAT scored below 400 on the verbal test.

-- That means 12% of of all football players scored below the threshold.

By the university's own calculations, the average ACT Reading score was 20.91. The average ACT English score was 19.88 and the average SAT Verbal score was 443.33.

Men's basketball:

Out of 44 sets of scores provided (some students took both the SAT and ACT):

-- Seven athletes scored a 16 or below on both the ACT English and ACT Reading. One student who additionally took the SAT test also scored below a 400 on the verbal section. An additional 3 who only took the SAT scored below 400 on the verbal test.

-- That means 22.7% of these athletes scored below the threshold.

Women's basketball:

-- Out of 29 total sets of scores provided (some students took both the SAT and ACT):

-- Four athletes scored a 16 or below on both the ACT English and ACT Reading. None of those also took the SAT. That's 13.8% of test takers in the sport.

According to Collegedata.com, the average student admitted to NIU has a 22 on the ACT.

NIU has two reading specialists who work with student athletes.

The university says that only one student athlete was "specially admitted" to NIU to play football or basketball between 2007 and 2012.

University response from a conversation with spokesman Brad Hoey.

NIU maintains that they have a threshold that must be met by everyone who wants to go to NIU, and that threshold does not change because a student is also an athlete.

Hoey responded to the percentages CNN found by saying that when "dealing with a much smaller demographic, percentages will be different."

The university has a program that allows students with low test scores to attend NIU.

"We have some very high achieving student athletes and some who are challenged," Hoey said. "We look at, can they can be successful in the classroom and can they be successful in sports? If that's true, we'll give them an opportunity. ... We won't take a chance on an athlete who can't make it in classroom."

See the data Northern Illinois sent to CNN »

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Ohio State University



Ohio State originally denied our request for SAT or ACT scores, saying they did not have a record compiled that showed the scores of athletes playing football or basketball. We then amended our request to ask for aptitude test scores, and Ohio State responded with the scores of the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), used by several universities to evaluate student-athletes after they are admitted.

The WRAT test evaluates each athlete at a certain reading level.

A review of those documents found that several of the scores were in the elementary range for reading skills, however, CNN could not tell how many scores were related to how many students.

The university did tell us that between 2009 and 2012, a total of 93 football players took the test. Those are the scores included in the document linked below.

Here's what a Ohio State University spokesperson said:

The Ohio State University's Student Athlete Support Services Office uses the Wide Ranging Achievement Tests (WRAT) as a way to determine the best possible individualized academic plan.

Over the past few years we have made our process more inclusive so that all incoming football players are evaluated. The WRAT is given to this group even if they have been previously diagnosed with a learning disability which oftentimes gives us the lower numbers in the statistics. We also use this test for any additional student athlete that thinks they may need to be tested for learning disabilities.

Once the evaluation has taken place we use the WRAT results to create an academic plan that is used throughout the entire semester. This plan includes elements such as individualized and group tutoring sessions for the classes enrolled and weekly mentor meetings to help with time management, study skills, and the transition from high school to college. When we are creating these plans, we use the information from the WRAT to determine where the needs (ex. math, reading, etc.) are greatest. For example, if a student athlete has a low math WRAT score, the number of math tutoring sessions would be greatly increased.

We have found that with this WRAT information helps us put our student athletes in the best possible situations for academic success.

See the data Ohio State sent to CNN »

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University of Oklahoma



From Professor Gerald Gurney's research:

-- He looked at 109 specially admitted athletes between 2007 and 2009.

-- Gurney says he found that 19.2% scored below a 17 on the ACT, or below 820 on the SAT.

According to Collegedata.com, the average student at University of Oklahoma gets a 26 composite ACT score, and has an average 575 SAT Verbal.

CNN asked Oklahoma for the SAT and ACT entrance exam scores of incoming football and basketball players, between 2007 and 2012, but we did not get a response.

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Oklahoma State University



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Scores for 365 students were given. Many athletes took more than one test and if they did, they were only counted if they scored below the threshold on both.

Of those 365, 48 scored below the threshold.

That's 13.2%.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

The average athlete scored a combined 20 on the ACT reading and English tests. According to their admissions dept., the average ACT score of incoming freshmen class in 2013 was 25.1.

The average athlete score submitted to us on the SAT critical reading score was 440. According to collegedata.com, the average score of admitted freshmen at OSU on the SAT critical reading test was 543.

Between 2007 and 2012, there were 81 student athletes playing football or men's basketball who were "alternatively admitted" to OSU, meaning they would not otherwise have been admitted on grades alone.

University response from spokesman Gary Shutt:

"The NCAA change in admittance requirements has allowed lower test scores for some athletes. Certainly we would like to see higher scores. But standardized tests are not the only gauge of a student athlete's potential. Work ethic and background play a huge roll. We provide the support to help many of these students become successful. While you point out that student-athlete scores are lower that the student body, the graduate rates for our athletes are in the same range as the total student body. That again points to the work ethic of student athletes."

*In September, Sports Illustrated published a multi-part series on scandal within Oklahoma State's football program, and it includes allegations from players that tutors wrote papers for them.

OSU says they are investigating and offered this response.

See the data Oklahoma State sent to CNN »

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University of Oregon



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Many athletes took more than one test and if they did, they were only counted if they scored below the threshold on both.

The University of Oregon provided CNN with scores grouped by range and by sport. Here's what the data showed:

Football

-- 35/245 athletes scored below 400 on the SAT verbal test.

-- 52/194 athletes scored a 400 or lower on the SAT writing test.

-- 20/87 athletes scored below a 16 on the ACT English test.

Men's basketball

-- 11 scored below a 420 on the SAT verbal test, with 18 scoring higher.

-- 10 scored below a 410 on the SAT writing test, with 13 scoring higher.
(ACT scores were not provided for this group.)

Women's basketball

-- 11 scored below a 450 on the SAT verbal test, with 45 scoring higher.

-- 11 scored below a 45o on the SAT writing test, with 35 scoring higher.
(ACT scores were not provided for this group.)

The average SAT verbal score of all students admitted to the University of Oregon in 2012 was 549.

The university said that between 2007 and 2012,there were no more than 90 athletes specially admitted to the University of Oregon, meaning they would not have otherwise been admitted on academics alone.

University spokesman Joe Mosley, in a statement, wrote that he believed the "negative stereotype" that some student athletes aren't academically ready for college is not supported by the data above.

He cited averages of student athletes in all sports at UO, writing:

"The average high school GPA of the 129 new student-athletes who enrolled for the first time at the UO last summer or fall term, for instance, was 3.48 (42 of the new student-athletes on rosters for this academic year began their studies during the summer). That GPA compares to the record 3.60 average for last fall's entering freshman class as a whole.

"The SAT test scores told a similar story: The 129 new student-athletes had average scores of 497 on the verbal (critical reading) portion of the college aptitude test and 536 on the math portion; the average for all students in the entering freshman class was 549 for verbal and 559 for math - the highest ever at the UO," Mosley wrote.

Roger Thompson, UO's vice president for enrollment management, said in a statement from the university:

"Student-athletes at the University of Oregon, for the most part, are performing in the classroom at or near the level of their peers in the general student population. I can't say that's a surprise, because students recruited for their athletic talents go through the same holistic admissions process at the UO as those who are recruited for their academic abilities."

Like many universities, Thompson also said test scores are just one factor considered when admitting a student athlete.

"The UO's comprehensive review process is used to consider all students - including student-athletes - for admission, and the perception that athletes are commonly granted exceptions is inaccurate. Fewer than a quarter of all "special admits" at the UO - situations in which students are admitted despite being below standards in GPA, SAT scores or core classes - are student-athletes," Mosley wrote.

Mosley also cited a freshman-to-sophomore year retention rate of 87 percent for all student athletes, and said the that rate is on par with the rest of the student population.

"We try to look at students' potential, what they have to offer and special circumstances they may have had to overcome," Thompson said. "We focus on their ability to earn a degree, even more than what numbers they may have as they come through our doors. We're more interested in what they're going to accomplish than what they already have accomplished."

See the data University of Oregon sent to CNN »

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Oregon State University



Oregon State provided composite test scores, meaning they included reading, math and in some cases writing, for football players admitted between 2007 and 2012.

According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a composite score of 800 on the SAT if the student took the math and verbal tests, and a 1200 if the student took the math, verball and writing tests. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

Most athletes only took one test, but if they took both, the score was only counted if they scored below the threshold on both.

Of the 607 sets of scores provided to CNN:

-- 82 scored lower than all thresholds of the tests that student took. That's 12%.
-- The average ACT score was 19.7.
-- The average SAT math and verbal combined score was 959.

We did not include students for whom no scores were reported.

Collegedata.com says the average student admitted at OSU gets a 24 on the ACT, a 1,101 on the SAT combined math and verbal or a 1,622 on the SAT math, verbal and writing.

OSU had 76 special admits on the football team between 2008 and 2012.

University response from a conversation with spokesman Steve Clark.

"If there's a supposition that OSU is admitting these students simply to play football that's wrong. We're investing in their future."

"We caution that test scores are one measurement of a student-athlete's ability to achieve at a university," Clark said, adding that learning disabilities prevent students from going well on tests.

"Both for students in general and for student athletes, we provide support for students who might have lower SAT scores, and they actually excel. So I think it's difficult in general for anyone to assume that an SAT is a direct measurement of someone's literacy."

"Do we wish we could do more? We're not satisfied, but it's not a free pass to OSU. Special admits are reviewed by those who hold the university to the highest of rigor."

"I would admit that there are, particularly in football or basketball, we could isolate certain student athletes and compare them to the general populous POPULACE of a university and community and there may be a perception that those student athletes score much lower. Your statistics seem to support that. I don't think that's necessarily a full reference of the success of athletes when they graduate."

"The alternative is not to invest in these students and not invest in their future and not to give them an opportunity. Our choice is to invest in them."

See the data Oregon State sent to CNN »

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Rutgers



Rutgers denied our request, saying the state open records law makes an exemption for all academic records.

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University of South Carolina



USC acknowledged it received CNN's request in October, but has since not responded to requests for a status update.

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University of Texas



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Many athletes took more than one test and if they did, they were only counted if they scored below the threshold on both.

Football

-- 52/314 scored at or below the threshold on all tests taken.

Men's basketball

-- 8/38 scored at or below the threshold on all tests taken.

Women's basketball

-- 5/36 scored at or below the threshold on all tests taken.

In total, that's 16.75% of athletes playing those three sports.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

The average SAT reading and writing score of the athletes, provided to CNN, was 477, and the average ACT English and Reading score was 19.

According to Collegedata.com, the average freshman admitted to Texas scores a 606 on the SAT critical reading test, and a 28 on the ACT composite.

We did not include students for whom no scores were reported.

University response from a conversation with Brian Davis, associate athletic director for football student services.

"We have to make really a moral decision. Let's make sure we're bringing people in who have a good chance at being successful. The debate becomes where do we draw the line as to who can become successful and then next line is, what do we consider success?"

Davis said that while "a percentage of those low reading scores are a result of cognitive ability, some are a result of not ever utilizing that skill."

He said many students make big improvements once they get some help.

At Texas, athletes are initially given a reading test to asses where they stand. Those who are reading below average are put in extra programs and are assigned a reading specialist.

Among the proudest moments in his job, Davis said, is when "on paper, a student who shouldn't be at an academic institution works hard and they get it. And they finish."

He said he disagrees with critics who say it's not possible to bring a student with a low reading level up to college-readiness.

"I know if a guy is reading at a lower rate than we want, we're not going to put them in courses that require a higher level of reading, at least not in the beginning," he said. "I see big growth, anecdotally, and that tells me that it's likely because they're immersed in it."

Davis also said that, no matter how competitive the academic institution, if an athlete meets NCAA eligibility standards, the school's responsibility is to help them succeed in the classroom.

"If you have someone with a lower reading level than is acceptable to survive at this level, you can't say 'We don't want them anymore.' They're here," Davis said. "...I understand the other side. I know faculty that question the success. What I don't like is that we marginalize the success of all student athletes based on those experiences."

Davis said Texas has very strict parameters for writing tutors and athletes.

"You have to minimize the risk as much as you can. If you're signing 20 (players), you can't have 30-50 percent extremely at risk. It puts way too much pressure on the system. That's when you get into more nefarious issues and I'm very proud of how we've addressed the risk factors." He also said that he's heard athletes say they didn't care very much about entrance exam scores.

"This is not an excuse for any low score, but one of the things, I've seen is that when the NCAA dropped the bottom ... I actually asked kids, and several said, yeah, just make sure you got B's in everything and don't worry about the test, which is a horrible thing to say."

The "bottom" Davis is talking about is the lowest possible test score to become eligible. The NCAA calculates it on a sliding scale, based on high school grade point average.

Davis also said that in a handful of cases, a student-athlete's highest score is not sent to the university, only the first test score that makes them eligible.

CNN also spoke to Texas professor Thomas G. Palaima, a MacArthur fellow and formerly a Texas Big 12 advisory board member for the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics.

He told CNN that frustrations with the academic levels of some athletes have boiled over at times while he's been at Texas.

Palaima cited one specific instance he was aware of, in which a 5th-year senior athlete appeared to be getting too much help from a tutor.

Palaima said he sees this as just one example of what he's seen over the years.

"I know of cases where very senior, not freshmen, but well along athletes, have grave difficulties with course material."

See the data Texas sent to CNN »

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Texas A&M University



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 800 on the SAT composite. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

Texas A&M University provided composite test scores, meaning they included reading/English and Math scores for athletes admitted to play football between 2007 and 2012.

The university provided 118 sets of scores to CNN. Most students only took one test, but if they took both, the score was only counted if they scored below the threshold on both.

We found that 29 scored below the threshold. That's about 25%.

We did not include students for whom no scores were reported.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

The average student at Texas A&M scores 1,197 on the SAT, or 27 on the ACT.

The average SAT score of the students-athletes in the last 5 years is 978.18.

The average ACT score of student-athletes provided ACT scores in the last 5 years is 19.03.

They did not submit scores for athletes playing basketball.

Texas A&M has two learning specialists.

University response from Jason Cook, senior associate athletics director.

Cook said he believes this data focuses on "inputs and not outputs."

"Texas A&M has a football graduation success rate of 74, which ranks fourth in the SEC (behind Georgia, Vanderbilt and Florida) and fourth in the state (behind Rice, TCU and SMU - all private institutions). The NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) is designed to show the proportion of student-athletes on any given team who earn a college degree. Texas A&M's GSR in football has increased from 55 in 2008 to 74 in 2012.

"Texas A&M has a football Academic Progress Rate of 969. Each year, the NCAA tracks the classroom performance of student-athletes on every Division I team through the annual scorecard of academic achievement, known as APR. The score measures eligibility and retention each semester or quarter and provides a clear picture of the academic culture in each sport. Texas A&M's APR has risen from 934 in 2008-09 to 969 in 2012-13."

"The state of Texas has a law that high school seniors in the top 10% of their respective class receive an automatic admit, regardless of test scores. Standardized test scores are only one predictor of college success. As a member of the Association of American Universities, Texas A&M is one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country. Texas A&M is also a land-grant institution. Such universities were founded in the late 1800s to provide "education for the masses."

See the data Texas A&M sent to CNN: Document one » | Document two »

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Texas Tech University



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

The University provided 601 separated scores for members of the football and basketball teams, admitted between Fall 2007 and Spring 2013. The individual scores were separated by subject test.

Texas Tech provided scores broken down by test and sport. Based on the format in which the data was provided, CNN was not able to determine how many students scored below the threshold in multiple tests. Therefore, there are multiple scores for each individual athlete.

According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

The University provided 601 separated scores for members of the football and basketball teams, admitted between Fall 2007 and Spring 2013. The individual scores were separated by subject test.

*Texas Tech provided scores broken down by test and sport. Based on the format in which the data was provided, CNN was not able to determine how many students scored below the threshold in multiple tests. Therefore, there are multiple scores for each individual athlete.

Football

70/194 of the ACT scores were 16 or below.

73/272 of the SAT scores were 400 or below.

Men's basketball

10/30 of the ACT scores were below the threshold.

9/30 of the SAT scores were below the threshold.

Women's basketball

15/34 of the ACT scores were 16 or below.

15 /41 of the SAT scores were 400 or below.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

The average overall ACT score from the data provided was 18.5

The average overall SAT score from the data provided was 463.58

According to Collegedata.com, the average admitted freshman at Texas Tech scored a composite of 24 on the ACT, or a 541 on the SAT verbal.

We did not include students for whom no scores were reported.

The university did not respond to questions from CNN.

70/194 of the ACT scores were 16 or below.

73/272 of the SAT scores were 400 or below.

Men's basketball

10/30 of the ACT scores were below the threshold.

9/30 of the SAT scores were below the threshold.

Women's basketball

15/34 of the ACT scores were 16 or below.

15 /41 of the SAT scores were 400 or below.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

The average overall ACT score from the data provided was 18.5

The average overall SAT score from the data provided was 463.58

According to Collegedata.com, the average admitted freshman at Texas Tech scored a composite of 24 on the ACT, or a 541 on the SAT verbal.

We did not include students for whom no scores were reported.

See the data Texas Tech sent to CNN »

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University of California, Los Angeles



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 16 on the ACT, and a 400 on the SAT critical reading, or writing subtest.

The university provided 494 separated scores, separated by subject test. They did not break down scores by sport.

Of 106 ACT reading and English scores, 15 were below the threshold.

Of 388 SAT reading and writing scores, 58 were below the threshold.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

The average athlete score on the SAT Reading was 489, on the SAT writing it was 482, and the average score on the ACT was 21.5.

According to collegedata.com, the average SAT reading score is a 619, and the average writing score is a 645. The average composite ACT score (which includes Math scores) for all admitted freshman at UCLA is 28.

University statement from Steve Ritea, associate director of university communications:

"This year, UCLA posted one of the highest graduation rates for student-athletes in the nation, with 87 percent earning their degrees - the most comprehensive measure of academic success by student-athletes. UCLA is dedicated to prioritizing academics within our athletics department and offers an extensive academic support program that begins during the recruiting process and extends all the way up through graduation and beyond. Every prospective recruit is thoroughly evaluated by a panel including members of our faculty, administrators in student affairs and the director of undergraduate admissions. That panel has the final word on every recruit. Those who accept offers of admission undergo comprehensive academic evaluations the summer before they enroll in classes here, letting us determine how much academic support they will need so that we can create individualized programs that will guide each of them toward graduation. Students in all 25 varsity athletic programs have access to - and, in many cases, are required to utilize - support in four key areas: academic counseling, which helps them determine course schedules and set academic goals; tutoring for courses as well as academic mentoring, which helps them develop good study habits and other learning strategies; orientation and graduation information; and programs that help them develop leadership skills and a dedication to community service. Each student-athlete's needs and their academic progress is closely monitored throughout their time at UCLA. In turn, every student-athlete is held accountable for living up to their responsibilities in the classroom. As a result, nearly half of all student-athletes at UCLA make the Athletic Director's Honor Roll each quarter, by earning a minimum 3.0 term grade point average in 12 or more academic units."

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University of Utah



Utah denied our request, saying it doesn’t have records that show the SAT or ACT scores of athletes, or the number of specially admitted athletes. Under the law in Utah, the university is not required to compile a record that doesn’t already exist. Our request regarding the number of reading specialists who work with student athletes was denied as well. CNN is working on getting other data, like aptitude test scores, that may show the reading levels of athletes at Utah.

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Virginia Tech



A list of scores was not provided, only averages. The averages also include all sports, not just the revenue generating sports -- football and basketball -- that CNN asked for in our request.

According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test.

Averages of athletes, provided by the university:

-- SAT Verbal: 524

From college data.com:

-- Average SAT Verbal: 540-640

Officials at Virginia Tech did not respond to CNN's request to talk about the data provided.

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University of Washington



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT critical reading or writing test. On the ACT, that threshold is 16.

CNN also compared the average athlete score to the average student admitted to the university.

Washington provided data broken down by test, not by sport.

SAT data:

-- 25/180 or 13.89% of athletes who took the SAT scored below 400 on both the critical reading and critical writing part of the test.

-- An additional four who only took the critical reading test scored below the threshold.

-- The average student at the University of Washington scores between 510 and 650 on the SAT critical reading tests, according to Collegedata.com

-- The average student athlete at UW scored 475 on the SAT critical reading test, according to data provided to CNN.

ACT data

-- 13/65 or 20% of athletes who took the ACT scored 16 or below on both the reading and English part of the test.

-- Collegedata says the average admitted student ranged from 24 to 30 in ACT composite.

-- Data provided to CNN shows the average athlete scored 18.5 on ACT English

-- Data provided to CNN shows the average athlete scored 20.1 on ACT Reading

University response from a conversation with Robert Stacey, the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and chair of the Advisory Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics (ACIA), a faculty advisory committee that oversees a range of issues regarding the athletic department.

Stacey acknowledged that there should be a national conversation about the achievement gap between student-athletes and non-athletes.

"We know how to close the achievement gap," he said. "It's just very expensive. I believe we're investing in that."

"A student who scored a 380 on his or her critical reading is going to face tremendous challenges, won't be able to compete the first year with a student who has a 650 or 700, but with intensive tutoring, and I'm not talking about cheating, I'm talking about tutoring, by the time they get to be juniors they're competing but its' a very expensive process. It takes intensive work."

Washington takes up to 30 special admits athletes each year, and since 2007, only one of those has been dismissed for academic reasons. About 50 percent of those special admit students graduate; the rest transfer, he said.

"They mainly leave because they are not getting enough playing time," he said.

"Their time is scheduled from morning to night, tutors are assigned to them. They work incredibly hard. It's a huge undertaking for these students. Most others would not survive under the pressure these students are under but these are willing to do it because it's their one shot."

Stacey also said that a lot of student-athletes with low test scores have been diagnosed with a learning disability.

"Is every one learning disabled? I doubt it, but a lot of those students are a lot smarter than those test scores would indicate," he said. "I don't see how a student who can't read could last a quarter here. That said, processing disabilities of all types may mean they are going to read very, very slowly until they learn the workarounds."

Stacey also said the University of Washington has a "college-readiness course" for any student who needs more preparation before taking college classes, and about 10 percent of that class each year is made up of student athletes.

Stacey said he believes the PAC 12 conference - Washington is part of it - has the highest achievement gap between student athletes and non-athletes, because of the high academic standards of the schools in the conference:

"Anecdotally, there are students in the PAC 12 who will accept students that we will not accept," he said.

"We feel it's a moral imperative we can only do it if that student has a realistic strong chance of getting a degree, otherwise it's a plantation," Stacey said. "We're very aware of the criticism and that's not the kind of place we want to be and I don't think it's the kind of place that we are."

*In 2008, The Seattle Times published this multi-part series on scandal within the Washington football team, including questions about academic rigor.

See the data Washington sent to CNN: Part 1 »   Part 2 »

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University of Wisconsin, Madison



According to several academic experts, the threshold for being college literate is a score of 400 on the SAT or 16 on the ACT.

Wisconsin provided CNN with 143 scores of football players admitted between 2007 and 2012.

Only two scored below the threshold on both the ACT reading and English tests, and only one scored below 400 on the SAT reading test.

That's 2%.

The average of the ACT scores provided to CNN was 23, and according to Collegedata.com, the average freshmen admitted to Wisconsin-Madison scores between a 26 and 30 on the ACT composite.

The average of the SAT scores provided to CNN was 486, and according to Collegedata.com, the average freshmen admitted to Wisconsin-Madison scores 593 on the SAT critical reading test.

The university did not respond to questions from CNN

See the data Wisconsin sent to CNN »