- Associated Press - Monday, September 5, 2011

ATLANTA (AP) - When Jay Finch arrived at Georgia Tech, he wasn’t just interested in being a lineman for the Yellow Jackets football team. He wanted to study architecture, too.

Then he talked with some student advisers, who gave him a dose of reality.

“They were like, `You can expect anywhere from 100 to 120 hours of studio time,’” Finch recalled. “I said, `Oh, like in a month.’ And they were like, `No, in a week.’ And I was like, `On top of football?’”

With that, Finch hopped aboard the M Train.

At Georgia Tech, where the famous fight song proclaims “I’m a heck of an engineer,” nearly 70 percent of the football team (43 of 62 players) has chosen to major in management, a business degree dubbed the “M Train” by those on campus who consider it an easier route to a diploma than the school’s renowned engineering program.

But the Yellow Jackets are hardly the only school where players tend to congregate in the same fields of study. There are four others universities where at least half the sophomores, juniors and seniors playing football are pursuing the same degree, The Associated Press found in a survey of the 68 schools in the conferences which receive automatic bids to the Bowl Championship Series, plus Notre Dame and Big East-member-to-be TCU.

At Vanderbilt, it’s human and organizational development (35 of 59). At UCLA, history is a big draw (27 of 47). At Wake Forest, there’s been a gridiron run on the communications department (34 of 60). At Baylor, upset winners over TCU on the opening weekend of this season, expect to find a lot of big guys in general studies (27 of 53).

This is not mere coincidence, of course. While it’s natural for a selected group of students _ in this case, male athletes _ to be interested in the same classroom subjects, it’s also apparent many are drawn to courses that are more accommodating to their Saturday pursuit.

“I wanted to dedicate myself more toward football,” conceded Finch, a sophomore center. “Yeah, I did take a little bit of the easier road. Management is still hard. You’ve still got to go to class.

“But,” he added, “at least I’m not up `til 3 in the morning drawing.”

The trend is so prevalent it has its own name _ clustering _ and extends far beyond Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Wake Forest and Baylor.

The AP survey, compiled from media guides, university websites and information provided by the schools, showed at least half the football players with declared majors at a dozen other universities are bunched in two fields of study. At 22 schools, 50 percent or more are pursuing a degree from a group of three majors.

That means more than half of the schools at the core of major college football _ 39 of 68 teams _ have some level of clustering.

At a recent summit hosted by NCAA President Mark Emmert, where a rash of rule-breaking was the main focus, university presidents quietly discussed the impact that clustering has on the academic experience for student-athletes.

While the governing body has no intention of mandating more diversity in the selection of majors, it is looking at compiling more data on what players are studying, hoping it can be used to improve athletes’ academic experience.

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