Academic progress high for bowl-bound teams
A study of the 70 schools selected for college football bowl
games this season showed football teams maintained high recent
academic progress, but the gap between African-American and white
The annual report released Monday by the Institute for Diversity
and Ethics in Sport showed overall Graduation Success Rate
improvement from 68 to 69 percent for football players at the
Also, 97 percent of schools received a score higher than the
target 925 (equal to an expected graduation rate of 50 percent) on
the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate. Teams with a four-year APR of
925 or below face penalties including loss of scholarships. A new
APR standard of 930 started to take effect for the 2012-13 academic
year, though it won’t be fully in place until 2014-15.
Primary study author Richard Lapchick said he thinks the recent
awareness raised by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and NAACP
President Ben Jealous has been instrumental in pushing schools to
make academic progress by athletes a priority.
”I think the threat of the loss of scholarships has great
meaning for coaches today,” Lapchick said. ”Even with football
teams being so much bigger than in basketball, coaches want to
protect those slots. They have become more engaged themselves and
are getting the resources into academic affairs to get students who
maybe weren’t as engaged in high school to be more successful at
This year’s numbers show a 20 percentage point gap between the
graduation rate of white and African-American athletes, 82 percent
to 62 percent. The numbers were 81 and 61 percent last year. But
Lapchick is encouraged that the rate for African-American athletes
has risen consistently recently.
As recently as 2009, those rates were 58 percent for
African-American and 77 percent for white athletes.
”There are a few perspectives on that gap,” Lapchick said.
”Graduation rates have significantly gone up annually a few points
each year, and that’s the good news.”
Lapchick noted that across the NCAA, African-American football
players graduate at higher rates than male African-American
students as a whole. Another study released Monday, though, found
less success by that measure among schools in the six BCS automatic
The report from the Penn Graduate School of Education Center for
the Study of Race and Equity in Education looked at all athletes at
those schools, not just football players. Using federal graduation
rates, it found that at those schools, 50.2 percent of
African-American male athletes graduated within six years, compared
with 55.5 percent of African-American undergraduate men.
The GSR measures graduation rates of Division I schools after
four years and includes students transferring into the
institutions. The GSR also allows schools to subtract athletes who
leave before graduation, as long as they would have been
academically eligible to compete if they remained.
At the bowl-bound schools, 66 of 70, or 94 percent, had at least
a 50 percent GSR for their football teams. That’s down from 97
percent in 2011, though Lapchick praised the high figure.
While the racial gap is a complex issue, Lapchick said, small
things can make a difference.
”I think you continue to apply as many resources as you can,
but (universities) also have to engage the public school systems
where they are,” he said. ”Now you see student-athletes
volunteering in their communities, which is something that hasn’t
always been the case.
”If those resources were directed at middle schools and
elementary schools, then their leadership could help young people
at those schools and inspire them to plot an academic course for
their future so that they will have more opportunities.”
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