- Confirmatory Factor Analysis of Perceived Exploitation of College Athletes Questionnaire
The exploitation of college athletes has been a topic of controversy within American higher education for over half of a century. Ever since the term student-athlete was coined in the 1950s (Sperber, 1999), academics and administrators have debated the extent to which the commercialization of college sports has turned college athletes into commodities, excluded from the free market while their coaches, colleges, and conferences reap huge financial rewards (Branch, 2011; Van Rheenen, 2013; Zimbalist, 1999). Especially in the revenue-generating sports of men’s basketball and football, critics have highlighted the surplus gains expropriated by colleges and universities on the backs of these young men, who are disproportionately Black (Eitzen, 2000; Hawkins, 2010; Rhoden, 2006).
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (“Are the flagship,” 2005) argued, “The case is strong that flagship universities are exploiting Blacks for their athletic talents,” by noting: “The majority of flagship state universities admit Black students who are not academically qualified . . . [and] solely for the purpose of their participation in intercollegiate athletics” (p. 2). James Duderstadt, a former college football player and President of the University of Michigan, also observed that universities “exploit” the athletic talents of college athletes “for financial gain and public visibility,” in part by “tolerating low graduation rates and meaningless degrees in majors like general studies or recreational life” (Duderstadt, 2000, p. 5-6). Even Walter Byers, who served as NCAA Executive Director from 1951 to 1987, titled his memoir Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes (Byers & Hammer, 1995), a clear indictment of modern college sports and the institutional commodification of at least some of these student athletes.
To date, only a few studies (Adler & Adler, 1991; Beamon, 2008; Leonard, 1986) have explored the idea of exploitation from the perspective of college athletes, and the limitations of these reports reveal the need for a more comprehensive and comparative analysis.
The proposed Perceived Exploitation of College Athletes (PECA) Questionnaire is an internally consistent three-item scale (α = .80). These three items were initially part of a seven-item index about perceived exploitation, which was one of several constructs studied in earlier papers about noncognitive predictors of academic success among college athletes (Simons & Van Rheenen, 2000) and the academic motivation of college athletes (Simons, Van Rheenen & Covington, 1999). In these studies it was found that college athletes who were more committed to their sports were also more likely to feel exploited. Additionally, the more college athletes felt exploited, the lower their university grade point averages.
Utilizing this three-item exploitation scale on a sample of 581 Division I college athletes, Van Rheenen (2011) found significant differences by gender, sport, and race. Participants on the revenue-generating sports of [End Page 486] men’s basketball and football were over seven times more likely to report feeling exploited than their peers on nonrevenue sports teams.
Van Rheenen (2011) also found significant differences by race in self-reported perceptions of being exploited. The odds of Black college athletes feeling exploited were nearly five times as great as that of White varsity athletes and four times as great as student athletes who identified as Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or any other racial group.
The Perceived Exploitation of College Athletes (PECA) Questionnaire, if found to be statistically valid and reliable as hypothesized, will help researchers and student affairs practitioners interested in this important area. For example, the scale will allow researchers to examine whether perceptions of exploitation differ by sport, gender, race, year in school, and/or scholarship status. These analyses can be conducted at colleges and universities who participate at varying levels of athletic competition, are public or private, and who offer scholarships or not. The demographics of the student body at large, relative to the student athlete population, may also be a factor in these perceptions of exploitation.
Findings could inform administrators and educators about the need to reform institutional policies related to recruiting, academic support services, career counseling, and compensation. If it is determined that a subset of college athletes are particularly vulnerable to feelings of exploitation, colleges and universities—and the conferences and associations to...