By Shaylin Best
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
On the field, Keon Paye is fully committed as a linebacker for Towson University’s football team.
On days when he does not have a game, football is still on his mind. Between practices, meetings, traveling and lifts, Paye trades his shoulder pads for a backpack. He is a sport management major and a business minor.
When he arrived at Towson in 2015, he knew what he wanted to study.
“I chose sport management because sport is basically what I grew up around and I wanted to pursue that interest,” Paye said. “The decision was not by the athletic department, my advisors, coaches, or anybody else besides myself.”
College athletes are often stereotyped as jocks whose academic interests pale in comparison to their interest in playing sports. Stories abound of athletes majoring in general studies, physical education or other programs designed to allow athletes to stay eligible without having to do much work. But an analysis of Towson athletes’ majors, based upon data provided by the athletic department, shows that TU athletes are far from that stereotype.
At Towson, sport management is the most common major among athletes. Business administration, psychology, exercise science and communication studies are also among the most popular. Among the least popular majors for athletes are geography, political science, pre-athletic training and education.
Elysa Newman, director for athletic academic achievement at Towson, said Towson athletes have autonomy in deciding their field of study. She said that personal interest and family are the most influential factors when athletes pick their majors.
“For athletes, you’ll often find that they choose something to do with sports – like sport management or exercise science — because that is what they like and it is human nature to surround themselves with sports,” Newman said. “Business is also popular because some see it as a catch-all and they think they’ll definitely get a job with that degree when they leave…With athletes whose parent are teachers or in law enforcement, you’ll sometimes find them studying education or criminal justice.”
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The largest share of athletes — roughly 30 percent — are in the College of Health Professions. The College of Business and Economics is second at nearly 23 percent.
“There are stereotypes [about student-athletes],” Newman said. “However, I wholeheartedly disagree with them. I think it’s a generalization. Working in this field for 12 years, I have seen that you can’t judge an entire team on a few individuals that might have their priorities skewed… there are many athletes who are motivated academically and high achieving and unfortunately, they do not get the same recognition.”
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The most popular majors for athletes who play in the fall are exercise science, communication studies and business administration. For winter athletes, most common are sport management, business administration, pre-business administration and exercise science. For spring athletes, the most common are sport management, psychology, exercise science and communication studies.
All the top majors for the fall, winter and spring respectively are on the list of most popular majors across all Towson athletes.
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Football is a popular sport during the fall at Towson. According to records from the Towson University Athletic Department, the most popular majors among football players in 2017 were sport management, communication studies, sociology and anthropology.
Women’s indoor track is a winter sport at Towson University. The team’s most popular majors in 2017 were exercise science, sociology and anthropology, and psychology.
Men’s lacrosse is a spring sport at Towson. Athletic Department records indicate that the most popular majors among players are pre-business administration, sport management and business administration.
Towson offers 83 majors to undergraduate students. Student-athletes are enrolled in 64 out of those 83 majors. That equates to roughly 77 percent.
When asked whether being an athlete impacts academic performance, Paye stated that it does.
“We have to take the same classes as other students, but it’s not that simple. We have the same classes that everyone studies for, but we have less time to do everything because of traveling, practices, games, etc..Sometimes we have to miss classes for games. Being a student-athlete requires a lot of extra time and hard work but we get it done.”
Towson athletes study a wide variety of different majors. Their busy schedules do not deter them from balancing school and sport. “Being in a culture where people value the academic piece as well plays a big role,” said Newman.