Black-White graduation gaps among college bowl teams ‘shameful’

Gaps between all student-athletes and non-athletes ‘scandalous’

First of a two-part column

If academic success, especially by Black football players, were the prime criterion for post-season bowl consideration, there probably would be a lot fewer schools playing than the 80 schools selected for 40 bowls.

The 2016-17 Bowl-bound College Football Teams report by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) assesses the overall academic progress of Black and White football players, using their graduation rates at Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools as the key measurement. This annual report is largely overlooked by mainstream media, who would rather fuss about who’s in and who’s out of the bowls.

Richard Lapchick
(MSR file photo)

This columnist, however, shares TIDES Director Richard Lapchick’s belief that winning on the field really is secondary to earning a degree, more importantly to just how much difference remains between Black and White graduation rates. “The gap between White and African-American football student-athletes continues to be a major issue, standing at 19 percent this year,” wrote Lapchick.

This year’s average Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for Black players is up two percent from last year — 68 percent from 66 percent in 2015 — but White players’ GSR also is up two percent, from 85 percent in 2015 to 87 percent this year. Hence the 19 percent graduation gap.

Despite the recent controversy surrounding Gopher football, the December 5 report shows only a seven-percent graduation gap between Black (68 percent) and White (75 percent) players.

Better, perhaps. But the gap still exists. And it should be noted that eight of the 80 bowl teams have 100 percent grad rates for White players, but no school had a 100 percent Black graduation rate.

Why this isn’t raising more eyebrows isn’t that surprising. There was more outrage last week over the Gopher football players’ boycott of all football activities in response to the 10 players suspended due to alleged sexual misconduct that took place last fall. But why isn’t anyone asking how it is we know that all 10 suspended players are Black even though school officials continually cite privacy laws when asked?

Minnesota is scheduled to play Washington State in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl. It’s a matchup of one of the lowest Black-White graduation gaps (the Gophers’) against one of the largest (38 percent — 55 percent for Blacks and 93 percent for Whites). The Gophers in fact have the second-smallest gap in the Big Ten behind Northwestern (one percent — 96 percent for Blacks and 97 percent for Whites), and eighth lowest overall among bowl teams.

Meanwhile, Louisville has a zero gap (both their Black and White players graduate at the same 68 percent), followed by South Florida and Northwestern (tied for second), Vanderbilt (two percent) and Utah (three percent).

Northwestern (96 percent), Stanford (95 percent) and South Carolina (95 percent) have Black grad rates in the 90th percentile. South Carolina, Southern Mississippi (80 percent), Air Force (82 percent) and San Diego State (74 percent) are the only teams whose Black players have better graduation rates than their White teammates.

Among the most “shameful” teams with poor Black grad rates, North Carolina (40 percent) is the worst in this category, followed by BYU (44 percent) and Eastern Michigan (48 percent). North Carolina also tops the largest Black-White graduation gaps with 60 percent.

Where’s the outrage? Lapchick also notes that when compared to the “regular” students, there is a 24 percent graduation gap between players and “regular student” non-players. “That 24 percent gap…remains scandalous and totally unacceptable for education in America,” he says. “The problem goes back to the academic preparation students get before they ever get to college.”


After New Year’s: Lapchick looks at college sport leadership.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to