Student-athletes’ grad rates is the perennial untold story

Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport -MSR file photo

Perhaps the best storyline not being discussed or written about during this year’s NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament is this: Do these players graduate? This is “the elephant in the living room” or TEIR question that hoops fans and pundits annually ignore or simply won’t ask.
The mainstream print media has been “shockingly quiet” about this, said Richard Lapchick, the director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), in a phone interview last week. “As you and I know that race matters, there are a lot of writers who don’t want to talk about it.”
TIDES last week released its annual “Keeping Score When It Counts: Academic Progress/Graduation Success Rate Study of NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Basketball Tournament Teams,” which compares the academic performance of Black and White male and female players. The report shows that the graduation rate is 38 percent for Black males but 62 percent for White males; it’s 49 percent for Black females but 67 percent for White females.
Thirty men’s teams have a 30 percentage point or greater gap between Black and White basketball players, and 36 men’s teams have a 20 percent or greater gap. This virtually comprises the entire 68-team field.
Eight women’s teams have a 30 percent or greater gap between its Black and White players, and 12 others have a 20 percent or greater gap — barely a third of the entire tournament field.
“The continuing bad news is that while the [overall graduation] rates have gone up, the gap between African American and White student-athletes actually increased by four percent this year,” continued Lapchick, adding that women hoopsters typically have done better than men hoopsters in the classroom.
“We’re almost to the point where the African American women and White women on college basketball teams are even. That gap was never as wide as the men, but it was wide enough to take note of it.”

After a closer analysis, we list this year’s men’s top worst in graduating their Black players:

1. Akron (zero Black, 100 percent White)
2-3 (tie). Arizona, Kansas State (14 percent Black, 100 percent White)
4. Washington (17 percent Black, 100 percent White)
5. UAB (18 percent Black, 100 percent White)
The women’s tourney top worst are:
1. Utah (zero Black, 100 percent White)
2. West Virginia (57 percent Black, 100 percent White)
3. Navy (60 percent Black, 100 percent White)
4-7 (tie). Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, Temple (67 percent Black, 100 percent White)

However, several schools did post higher Black player graduation rates than their White players:

Men: Northern Colorado (100 percent Black, 78 percent White); Boston (100 percent Black, 80 percent White); and UNC-Ashville (57 percent Black, 50 percent White).
Women: Maryland (75 percent Black, zero percent White); Louisiana Tech (56 percent Black, zero percent White); Tennessee-Martin (100 percent Black, 75 percent White); DePaul (100 percent Black, 86 percent White); and James Madison (78 percent Black, 67 percent White).
Among the top four men’s seeds, only Pittsburgh had a higher graduation rate for their Black players (60 percent) than their White players (50 percent), while Stanford and Tennessee, both with 100 percent graduation rates for Black and White players, tie for the best among the four women’s top seeds.
Furthermore, several schools graduate all their players, Black and White, at the same 100 percent rate: eight men (Utah State, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Wofford, Belmont, BYU, Illinois and Notre Dame) and 23 women.
Here’s our second TEIR question of the day: Whose fault is it that our Black young men and women are not graduating from college at higher rates than presently shown?
Lapchick responds, “I think that so many African American students in particular on our college basketball teams have come from urban areas with school systems that are far less adequate than in suburban areas and rural areas.” He adds under-funded schools, poor technology, and less effective teachers as contributing factors, as well far too few Black students coming to college fully prepared academically.
Each student is responsible to ensure that they do everything they can to graduate, even they “are victimized by the system,” admitted the TIDES director. “If our African American student-athletes take on that responsibility, and they are not being challenged by the university to perform academically, ask them why not.”
Such poor graduation rates among Black players is the real neglected storyline that should be reported alongside final scores. It should make us mad not just in March, but all year long.

To see the entire report, go to
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokes