Grad racial gaps stagnant among Sweet Sixteen men

Women have nearly closed the gaps

Gene Smith

The Sweet Sixteen round begins this week in men’s and women’s college basketball. But nary a word has been said about the continuing graduation disparity gap between Black and White players.

Our March Madness coverage continues this week not on the games, but rather on the fact that while men’s graduation rates have become stagnant, the graduation gap between Black and White female hoopsters is the closest in 16 years, according to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport’s (TIDES’) latest report on the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tournament teams.

Among the 68 men’s tournament teams, the players overall have a 78 percent graduation rate, but that’s 92 percent for Whites and 74 percent for Blacks. These numbers have not changed much in the past three years, the study points out. “Race remains a continuing academic issue, not only in college sports but also in higher education in general,” TIDES Director Richard Lapchick wrote in his annual report’s executive summary released last week.

But among this year’s 64-team women’s field, there’s a 92 percent combined graduation rate and a much smaller graduation gap than in recent years – 94 percent for Whites and 91 percent for Blacks. “The gap between White and African American student-athletes has always been significantly smaller on women’s teams than on men’s teams,” Lapchick stressed.

Minnesota’s women, who advanced to the second round last weekend, are among 28 teams with a 100 percent, no-gap graduation rate. Only 11 men’s teams could say the same in graduating all their players regardless of race.

But as is this column’s annual practice, we usually do a deeper analysis of Lapchick’s data. We found 35 men’s teams and 21 women’s teams with Black grad rates lower than Whites, with UCLA (20 percent) the worst. Nicholls State and Oklahoma State tied with the worst Black graduation rate (63 percent) among women’s teams.

This year’s worst top 10 in disparity gaps (in percentage points): men – Tennessee (-100 percent), San Diego State (-62), North Carolina State (-57), North Carolina (-57), Providence (-56), UCLA (-55), Wichita State (-55), Syracuse (-50), Texas (-50), and College of Charleston (-43).

The women’s worst top 10 includes: Oklahoma State (-37), Oregon State (-33), Iowa (-33), Cal Northridge (-25), Oklahoma (-25), North Carolina State (-20), Louisville (-18), South Carolina (-18), Texas A&M (-17), and Buffalo (-17).

North Carolina State achieved the dubious honor of a double-double racial disparity in their men’s and women’s basketball graduation rates this March Madness, which Lapchick called “unacceptable.”

On the other hand, Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith told the MSR last weekend at the 2018 Women’s Frozen Four on the Minnesota campus, “It is much better,” referring to overall graduation disparities. He has been in charge of Buckeyes athletics since 2003 and is among the 14 percent of Black Division I ADs. His two teams graduate 75 percent of Black male players and 89 percent of Black women players compared to 75 percent for White women and 67 percent for White males.

“There are 371 Division I schools, so every school is different,” Smith explained. “It has gotten better, [but] we need to do a better job.”

Instead of hoops fans and the game’s media lackeys calling for NCAA member schools to show better results off the court, they’d rather glorify a 16-seed knocking off a top seed. But in the final analysis, the two teams are likely no different when it concerns graduation rate disparities.


Next: More from our short interview with Ohio State AD Gene Smith, who also gets a mention in this week’s “Sports Odds and Ends.”

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