It’s that time of year in the waning days of the college football season when talk of coaches being fired and hired, the fairness or unfairness of the current four-team playoff system, and other such subjects are oft-discussed. But buried under such talk is the ever-existing graduation-rate gap between Division I Black and White football players.
“I don’t expect that [gap] to change,” Richard Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), said in a December 4 phone interview. Winning takes top priority, especially at the Power Five conference schools where coaches are expected to win “even if they have a 98 percent graduation rate,” Lapchick said.
After the NCAA created the Academic Progress Rate (APR) in 2004 as part of its academic reform package to better measure players’ classroom success and graduation rates, teams now must achieve an APR score of 930, which is considered an expected 50-percent student-athletes graduation rate. Anything below that score means a reduction in scholarships.
“I think [schools] are taking it much more seriously,” Lapchick said. “For one thing, they will lose scholarships if they don’t.” Adding more academic advisors for the players has helped as well,” he said. “That has helped move the needle forward.”
All bowl-bound teams surpassed the 930 APR score, but the graduation gap between Black and White football players still exists, states the TIDES director in the latest TIDES report on the 78 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) bowl-eligible schools (a minimum of six wins is needed) that was released December 4.
Asked why his annual report is important to football fans and non-football folk alike, Lapchick pointed out, “Because these are educational institutions. When we started doing these studies, graduation rates were significantly lower.”
Although this year’s graduation gap between Black and White players has narrowed a bit, it is still large, Lapchick writes. “The good news is [that] it is shrinking, as last year’s report showed a 19 percent difference between the two groups,” he stressed.
The 2017 average Graduation Success Rate (GSR) is 71 percent for Black football players, up from 68 percent a year ago. The average GSR for White players remains at 87 percent. But let’s look closer at the “disparity bowl” teams:
- 45 teams are above average.
- 17 teams have single-digit disparity gaps.
- Seven teams have Black GSRs higher than Whites.
- Six teams have Black GSRs in the 90th percentage, 11 teams in the 80s.
- There are two teams with no gap, where both Black and White player GSRs are the same.
- There are zero teams with 100 percent Black GSRs but nine teams with 100 percent White GSRs.
How fare the four teams competing in the college football playoff later this month? Georgia (29 percent), Oklahoma (24 percent), Clemson (19 percent) and Alabama (14 percent).
The worst gap? Ohio with 47 percent. The “best”? Duke and New Mexico State, both at zero percent.
Two of the three teams with the next-smallest gap (two percent) are playing in the same bowl: Michigan and South Carolina. The third is Appalachian State playing Toledo (22 percent) in another bowl.
These reports will keep coming despite their overlooked status by football media types, said Lapchick, who advocates that the bowl money be better distributed, especially among those schools that shows better grad rates.
“We want to keep the pressure on,” Lapchick pledged. “We must keep the focus that there is a tremendous disparity of African American and White student-athletes, especially in the revenue sports” of football and basketball.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is the senior staff writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com