In past years, I used to scrounge newsstands for any piece of needed information to fill out mimeographed bracket sheets, only to later lose my hard-earned money in the worksite pool.
Don’t get me wrong — I still sequester myself watching the first two rounds through bloodshot eyes, with the mute button at full volume. However, I no longer act like Marvin Gaye, foolishly asking what’s going on, because I’m now like Johnny Nash and can see clearly now — my eyes are now wide open.
While broadcasters and others call it the “Big Dance,” the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament actually is like the players’ ball where the “pimps” — the television networks, the NCAA, advertisers and big-school officials — all get rich. An estimated $702 million in television revenues will be raked in, and with ticket sales, that amount is expected to balloon to around $797 million.
It’s the O’Jays for everyone — money, money, money except for the players, who are making it rain money for the pimps.
But rarely does anyone talk about that, or about Richard Lapchick’s “disparity gap” reports that he issues each year on the NCAA men’s and women’s tournament teams. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) compares Black and White graduation rate data using the Graduation Success Rates (GSR) and Academic Progress Rates (APR).
Black basketball players’ GSR “increased substantially by six percentage points from 59 percent in 2012 to 65 percent in 2013,” reported Lapchick in his reports released last week. But White basketball players’ GSR also increased from 88 percent last year to 90 percent this year, which totals to a 25 percent “enormous gap” between Blacks and Whites.
I’d wager a bottom dollar that if it was White players with such poor graduation rates, the outrage would be felt coast-to-coast.
“It is simply not acceptable that in 2013,” continued Lapchick, “40 percent of the men’s teams had a GSR disparity of greater than 30 percent between White student-athletes and African American student athletes, and 53 percent had a GSR disparity of greater than 20 percent.”
For example, Florida posted no Black player that graduated, but 100 percent of its White players have. Big Ten champs Indiana shows a 55 percent gap between its Black players (45 percent) and White players (100 percent). With its 50 percent Black-White graduation gap, the University of Minnesota actually is in the middle of the pack.
Additionally, Lapchick notes that the women hoopsters on average are smarter, or at least get their sheepskins at a higher rate than do their male counterparts: 25 of the 64 teams have a 100 percent graduation rate across the board as compared to just 11 men’s teams, and 32 teams have 100 percent Black graduation rates. Four men’s schools and nine women’s teams have better Black grad rates than Whites.
Despite the fact that the disparity gap is smaller for the women — six percent between Black females (88 percent) and White females (94 percent) — it is still problematic and unequal. “Race remains a continuing academic issue,” says Lapchick, who blames a U.S. educational system that has too many under-funded and under-equipped primary and secondary schools, and when too often Black players, who are not seen as equal students for the most part, are arriving at unwelcoming, predominately White college campuses where only their athletic skills and not their intellects are respected.
“Hopefully in the future, women’s basketball student-athletes will continue to succeed, the men will continue to do better, and we will see a further decrease in the disparity between White and African American student-athletes,” surmises Lapchick.
But will the bracketlogists, the blinders-wearing media and hoop snobs everywhere recognize this as an issue deserving their attention? Fat chance.
Hocket streak intact
The U of M women’s hockey on Sunday extended its NCAA-record win streak to 49 games en route to their second consecutive national title, finishing with a first-ever 41-0-0 record in NCAA history.
Gopher former coach Laura Halldorson told me after the team’s 6-3 win over Boston University, “Our sport is so competitive these days, so for a team to be able to find a way to win every single game, including three overtime [contests] this year, says a lot about the character of the players, the leadership of the team, [and] the coaching staff.”
Adds her successor Brad Frost, a longtime assistant on the streak, “It’s incredible where it ranks.”
(Still) gender imbalance in media coverage II
Sunday’s NCAA women’s hockey title game wasn’t on television. “I think that’s a shame,” admits former coach Halldorson. “People don’t know what they are missing.”
Did you know…?
Answer to last week’s “Did you know…?” How many Black head coaches have led teams to the Women’s Final Four? Bonus: How many Black coaches overall have led teams to NCAA berths? Answers: Seven of eight Black head coaches were women, and not including this year, a total of 34 Blacks have led teams to post-season play.
(See Sports Odds and Ends for this week’s “Did you know…?” question.)
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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