Is it madness to expect 40 percent of college athletes to graduate? The way NCAA basketball coaches responded to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, you would think so. Mr. Duncan proposed that schools with 60 percent drop-out rates be banned from the “March Madness” of the NCAA championship tournament.
Mr. Duncan has some credibility when it comes to hoops. He was co-captain of the Harvard team (yes, he graduated) and was a pro in Australia. He believes that gifted athletes with no interest in academics should be able to turn pro out of high school, but thinks college basketball players should be successful in the classroom if not on the hardwood.
If Mr. Duncan’s ban had been in force this year, Maryland would not have lost to Michigan State — the Terrapins, with their 08% team graduation rate, would have stayed at home. Other teams that would sit out: Arkansas Pine Bluff ( 29% team graduation rate), Baylor (36%), UCLA (37%), Clemson (20%), Georgia Tech (38%), Kentucky (31%), Louisville (38%), Missouri (36%), and New Mexico State (36%). The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport has the stats. There’s more bad news: a growing racial disparity in graduation rates. 84 percent of white and 56 percent of African American male basketball student-athletes graduate.
The NCAA has ignored and dismissed complaints about low-achieving “student” athletes before. This year’s strategy: Blind ‘em with science. “NCAA Research” announced it will make the league’s raw academic stats available through an academic clearinghouse housed at the University of Michigan (team graduation rate unknown). All the data, though, will come from NCAA members, not independent observers. We understand the NCAA will dispense with referees next year and teams will self-report scores and penalties.
Since there is already a pro basketball ”development league,” it has always struck us as odd that cash-strapped colleges cheerfully fund a second ”farm team” system for millionaire NBA franchise owners and sports book gamblers. Almost all colleges show no profit from sports efforts, and few college sports programs are even self-sustaining. Some schools say sports events provide public exposure and serve as a recruiting tool, but these claims never see a cost benefit analysis, either.
Universities insist on calling the grants they give team members “scholarships.” Asking student athletes to participate as students and graduate seems a minimal requirement.
“March Madness Fervor Hides Hides Low Graduation Rates,” PBS NewsHour.
“March Madness, diploma sadness,” Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune.
Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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