On the eve of the NCAA College Basketball tournament, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan blasted the fact that several of the basketball teams participating have horrible graduation rates, and proposed in the future that schools must have at least 40% of their players graduate to be eligible for postseason play.
"We're trying to prepare students for life, not just for success on the court, " Duncan said Wednesday afternoon.
Duncan participated in a conference call with Richard Lapchick of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, who has just produced their annual survey of the graduation rates of both the men's and women's teams who have been selected to the 2010 tournament.
The men's basketball teams in this month's tourney who wouldn't make it if Secretary Duncan's proposal was in effect this year include a team that some say could win it all, the University of Kentucky Wildcats, whose graduation rates were listed at 36% this year.
Eight other schools in the men's event also wouldn't make the bill under Duncan's 40% cutoff rate. They include Arkansas-Pine Bluff (29%), Baylor (36%), California (20%), Clemson (37%), Georgia Tech (38%), Kentucky (31%), Louisville (38%), Maryland (8%), Missouri (36%), New Mexico State (36%), Tennessee (30%) and Washington (29%).
Lapchick said that those graduation rates do not include transfers or players who leave early for the NBA. They also don't reflect athletes who will play this month, as they include the most recent four-year classes that have had six years to graduate.
In his study, it shows that there is a large discrepancy between the graduation rates of white players vs. black players:
White male basketball student?athletes on tournament bound teams graduate at a rate of 84 percent versus
only 56 percent of African?American male basketball student?athletes. White female basketball student?athletes
on tournament bound teams graduate at 90 percent compared to 78 percent of African?American female
basketball student?athletes who graduate. These 28 and 12 percent disparities are alarming. The gap for men
increased by seven percentage points while the gap for women narrowed, from 16 to 12 percent from a year
Lapchick emphasized that, African?American male and female basketball players graduate at a higher rate than
African?American males and females who are not student?athletes. The graduation rate for African?American
male students as a whole is only 38 percent, versus the overall rate of 62 percent for male white students, which
is a huge 24 percentage point gap. The graduation rate for African?American female students as a whole is 50
percent, versus the overall rate of 67 percent for white female students, which is 17 percentage point gap. Our
predominantly white campuses too often are not welcoming places for students of color, whether or not they
Also participating in the conference call was NAACP head Benjamin Jealous, who applauded the study for focusing on racial disparities. He mentioned schools such as Kentucky, UNLV and Maryland as being particularly egregious in that respect. The question for me is, do these things go far enough? One of the most troubling things is the gap between African-American and white collelge student athletes.
The two big Florida public universities reflect that discrepancy in broad relief. The University of Florida Gators, who won back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007 but have missed the tourney the past two seasons, showed 100% graduation rate for their white players, but only 50% for their black student athletes. The Florida State Seminoles showed 100% graduation rate for their white athletes, but only 71% for their African-American basketball players.