U of M athlete’s racial graduation gap ‘still not acceptable’


AnotherViewsquareSecond of a two-part column

The NCAA introduced the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) in 2005 “for a more accurate measure of graduation performance of NCAA athletics programs,” says The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida.

“In order to calculate the GSR, the NCAA tracks student-athletes for six years following their entrance to an NCAA member institution,” explains TIDES, which annually compares Division I GSRs and periodically releases report cards.

According to an NCAA GSR report released last fall, three out of every 10 Black college student-athletes are graduating from college. It also showed a 14 percent improvement in overall Black graduation rates from 56 percent in 1995, the last year of the oft-controversial Prop. 48 eligibility rules, to 70 percent in 2007.

According to an NCAA GSR
Boys’ student-athletes’ graduation rates

Black males showed the largest growth from 51 percent in 1995 to 65 percent in 2007. Black females showed a 10 percent growth from 71 percent in 1995 to 81 percent in 2007.

Is this to be celebrated or just another NCAA Wizard of Oz dissemination campaign? Like the term “student-athlete”? We would argue the latter because Whites improved as well — males nearly 10 percent (76 percent to 85 percent) and four percent for females (89 percent to 93 percent).

The MSR in 2012 published a front-page story on University of Minnesota Black student-athletes grad rates, and “a significant graduation gap” then existed between Black and White players. We once again looked at the U of M GSRs from 1998 to 2008. Here are the changes from 1998-99 to 2007-08:

Black males, 31 to 45; Black male players, 31 to 62; Black females, 38 to 51; Black female players, 65 to 83; White males, 54 to 75; White male players, 64 to 87; White females, 58 to 76; White female players, 88 to 97.

As was the case nationally, U of M Black male athletes showed the largest increase (31 percent), but their White male counterparts were second (23 percent) and White male non-athletes third at 21 percent. Only the school’s White female players (nine percent) didn’t show a double-digit increase during the same 10-year span studied.

But when we closely examine U of M graduation rates in three key sports, the numbers gap looks worse. Again, here are the changes from 1998-99 to 2007-08:

Black football players, 33 to 52; White football players, 55 to 84; Black male basketball, 25 to 78; White male basketball, 0 to 100; Black female basketball, 56 to 75; White female basketball, 75 to 100.

Girls' student-athletes' graduation rates
Girls’ student-athletes’ graduation rates

Simply put, then and now the school’s graduation gap between Blacks and Whites still exists.  And such a disparity between Black and White athletes’ graduation rates, whether local or national, and especially with all these NCAA academic reforms put in place in recent years, is “still not acceptable,” notes TIDES Director Richard Lapchick.

“Overall the university is really focused on retaining and graduating students of all races,” said McNamara Academic Center for Student-Athletes Lynn Holleran in an MSR phone interview. “Our graduation success rate overall is the highest it’s ever been. It’s all student-athletes and not just one race.”

Finally, whether it’s GSR or Academic Progress Rates (APR), which was discussed in last week’s MSR, the chicken or egg question must be asked: Who’s ultimately responsible to ensure that college players graduate?

Holleran said that “a combination of all of us,” including her department and the Gopher coaches, are responsible “to make sure our student-athletes graduate. Obviously the university has a very important role for all students, not just student-athletes, to graduate.

“Our student-athletes have a significant responsibility to take their education seriously,” she said.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.