UK CAFE Gridiron Challenge



There is a substantial knowledge gap between collegiate faculty and Division I athletes (Tovar, 2011). Faculty stereotypes toward athletes in Division 1 football and basketball programs have long been documented (Bowen & Levin, 2003; Simons, Bosworth, Fujita, & Jensen, 2007). While studies have primarily focused on faculty perceptions, student athletes have also experienced faculty bias.

Infact, researcher'sfound that a large portion of student athletes felt they were perceived differently by faculty. Thirty three percent of student athletes surveyed statedthey were treated negatively by professors, 61.5% were given a hard time when requesting course assistance, and 62.1% reported faculty making negative remarks in class (Simons, Bosworth, Fujita & Jensen, 2007). However, there is hope. Tovar (2011) found that factors such as positive perceptions of the athletic program, enhanced faculty-student athlete interaction, and faculty involvement with athletics diminished student athlete stereotypes.


In order to address this phenomenon, student athletes at the University of Kentuckydesigned an innovative program titled "The Gridiron Challenge" immersing College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) faculty, staff and students into the life of a student athlete. In return,  the student athletes became the participant's professors. Their purpose was to diminish stereotypes associated with both of student athletes and professors, diminishing the knowledge gap.

In May 2015, CAFE faculty, staff and students participated in a three-day cultural immersion program where they experienced the following day to day events as student athletes.

Day 1 and Day 2 — Student Athlete Immersion:

  • Gridiron Education: participants spent four hours in the morning being taught by student athlete professors on the topics of character building, leadership and football 101. This included course assignments and quizzes.
  • Lunch: participants ate lunch together as a team with their coaches.
  • Pre-practice Overview: afterlunch participants met with their position coaches (student athletes) to learn and review their positions and practice techniques.
  • Practice: participants broke into two teams led by their student athlete coaches to run plays and focus on positions.
  • Weight Training: after practice participants entered weight training where they were educated on proper strength training techniques.
  • Dinner and Homework: participants were to eat dinner and begin completing their assigned homework.

Day 3 — CAFE Bowl:


The student pilot program was a great initial success. In fact the students' story was picked up by Mr. Patrick McHugh of the National Football Foundation in July, 2015. You can read the article here.