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Study: 91 percent of white NCAA div. I basketball players graduate, to only 59 percent of blacks

Apr 15, 2011, 10:49 AM EDT

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Now that the NCAA Basketball Tournament is in the books and you’ve been paid your substantial winnings from the office pool (laugh track), we can get into some college hoops statistics that are a bit more sobering. According to a study by the UCF College of Business Administration’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the “staggering gap” in graduation rates between white and black men’s basketball players in Div. I has grown to 32 percent — 91 percent for white players, to only 59 percent for African-Americans.

And while the graduation rate overall has increased from last year by 2 percent, the gap between whites and African-Americans rose for the third straight year: from 22 percent in 2009 to 28 percent in 2010 to the current 32 percent.

“To say that it’s troubling is an understatement,” Lapchick said. “It is a staggering gap, but I think you’ve seen an increased percentage among African American athletes over the years because of the (Academic Progress Rate) thresholds. Losing scholarships is a big lever there. … Now you have to raise the expectation level of the rates.”

Of course, some schools are doing better than others.

“As always, there are schools that win big enough to be here in March and graduate their student-athletes,” Lapchick said. “If we were to choose a Top 10 for Graduation Success Rates, these schools would be there: Belmont, Notre Dame, Villanova, Wofford, Illinois, BYU, Utah State, Vanderbilt and Arkansas-Little Rock. All of these teams had GSR greater than 92 percent. Seven teams achieved a 100 percent GSR: Belmont, Notre Dame, Villanova, Wofford, Illinois, BYU, and Utah State.”

Wake Forest law professor Tim Davis, in a column at the Huffington Post, says that the growing graduation rate gap between whites and blacks is a more concerning issue than any other in college basketball today.

To what extent are universities willing to sacrifice academic integrity in return for athletic prowess? Given the huge sums of money generated by men’s basketball, does the graduation gap raise the specter of exploitation of African American athletes? Perhaps more importantly, what steps are academic institutions taking to assist all of their athletes in taking full advantage of the educational opportunities implicit in their athletic scholarships?

To this end, Davis, Lapchick and other academics have taken steps to begin a national discussion on the topic, beginning with the just-concluded Losing to Win Conference at Wake Forest. Among the speakers were Kevin Blackistone and LaChina Robinson.

Wake Forest student Steven Johns attended conference:

“A recurring theme in the panel discussion was the description of athletes of different race. The panel noted that the media often describes African American athletes as “naturally talented” and “athletic” while comparable Caucasian athletes are often described as “intelligent.” This “code” language emphasizes stereotypes of black and white athletes even if the labels given to these athletes are not necessarily true. Other issues raised by the panel included the issue of minority representation in the field of sports journalism and the under-representation of women athletics.

Unfortunately, when it comes to college basketball in the media, the conversation always seems to center on the “pay-for-play” issue. While it’s true that the system is probably broken and needs an overhaul, let’s not forget what college is supposed to be about. As these statistics seem to prove, we should probably be worrying about graduating these guys before we start paying them.

Graduation Rates Widen Between Blacks, Whites [UCF Today]
Losing to win in college sports [Huffington Post]