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

players persists.

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

bowl-bound schools.

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

their universities.”

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

qualifying conferences.

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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