Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The real score, part II

Dr. Richard Lapchick released his graduation rates study for NCAA-bound men's teams on Monday. A similar report also was done for the women's NCAA teams, and was released Tuesday, the day after the selections were announced.

"Women have regularly been the best news academically in college sport," says Lapchick, who heads the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. "Women basketball student-athletes do much better academically than men," he continues.

There are clear differences between this year's women teams and men's teams:

*61 women's teams (out of 65) graduate at least 60 percent of its players; the men only 31
*51 women's teams graduate at least 70 percent; 22 men teams have done the same
*Only one women's team (up from zero teams in 2007) graduated less than 40 percent of its players (Jackson State); there are 14 men's teams this year with a similar percentage of graduates

This shows a couple of things: female basketball players take their education more seriously than their male counterparts, and second, unlike the men, who too many bolt to the pros after one or two years, the women stay in school longer because there's no money out there for them to leave early for the WNBA.

However, as with the men, a gap does exist between Black and White female basketball players when it comes to graduating, albeit smaller.

White female basketball student-athletes graduate at 88 percent, only 72 percent of Black female basketball student-athletes graduate, Lapchick's report found. It's slightly better than a a year: a 16 percent disparity as opposed to 17 percent in 2007. For men, the disparity between Black and White players is 24 percent -- 25 percent a year ago.

Lapchick says this problem extends far beyond the colleges. "Too many urban schools are underfunded and cannot deliver the resources that would level the academic playing field," he explains. "Schools are recruiting many of our African-American basketball players from urban areas. This makes it far more difficult for student-athletes and students in general to be successful. In the meantime, admissions officers need to admit only students who can succeed academically."

But based on the two respective reports, too many schools care only about on-court wins and losses, and too little about classroom success. The age-old question always has been: Who's ultimately responsible -- the institution or the student-athlete, be he or she, for their education? A chicken or egg dilemma in too many cases, I'm afraid.

Using the available Graduation Success Rates (GSR) data, Lapchick discovered more distressing results:

-- 15 women's tournament teams (24 percent) and 22 men's tourney teams (34 percent) have graduation for Black basketball players that were at least 30 percent lower than their rates for White players. For the women, this is up two percent from last year; for the men, this is down from 49 percent in 2007
--22 women's teams (35 percent, down from 39 percent in 2007) and 28 men's teams (44 percent, down from 61 percent in 2007) have graduation rates for Black hoopsters that were at least 20 percent lower than their rates for their White counterparts

As we did for the men, let's briefly honor the best and the worst in women's teams.

Among this year's worst:

Arizona State: 33 percent Blacks/100 percent Whites
Iowa State: 0 percent Blacks/83 percent Whites
Xavier: 0 percent Blacks/86 percent Whites
UC-Santa Barbara: 0 percent Blacks/91 percent Whites
Minnesota: 56 percent Blacks/75 percent Whites

And this year's best:

Bucknell, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Robert Morris, Syracuse, Tennessee, Marist, Notre Dame, Texas, and Vanderbilt all graduate 100 percent of its players, both Black and White. San Diego also graduate 100 percent of its players, but they do not have any Blacks. It also should be noted that Jackson State, a Historically Black College, had no White players, but still only graduated 26 percent of its Black female players, and Montana, Utah and Wyoming had no Black basketball players for GSR purposes.

Finally, I love college hoops as much as anyone. But I also love Lapchick's annual reports because it put everything in its proper perspective. Success should be two-fold: in the classroom and on the court. Many schools have proven that it can be done, while too many have shown that there is an imbalance in their overall perspective.

The graduation gap between Blacks and Whites must get smaller, if not someday disappear. Then we can have June Jubilation along with March Madness.

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