Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The real score

Now the selections have been made. The brackets are now set. The annual moaning has subsided somewhat. This year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Teams are ready for its win and keep going -- lose and go home, post-season.

I wonder if the so-called bracket experts, the babbling heads on ESPN, the multitude of college hoops followers who are frantically filling out tournament sheets for its annual tournament pools, ever think about the little known fact:

These players are student-athletes.

This fact is never overlooked by Dr. Richard Lapchick, who annually releases his "Keeping Score When It Counts" study on the NCAA men's basketball teams. Lapchick, the primary author of the study and director of the The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) and chairman of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at the University of Central Florida, looks at the invited schools' Graduation Success Rates (GSR). He compares the classroom performance for Black and White basketball student-athletes.

There still exist a significant disparity between the academic success between Black and White men's basketball players in major colleges: Lapchick calls this "deeply troubling." However, he reports, "The gaps are narrowing slightly."

This year's report, released on Moaning Monday, the day after Selection Sunday, showed that 41 teams (64 percent) graduated at least half of its basketball players, which is the same total in 2007. Additionally, 31 teams (48 percent) graduated at least 60 percent, a four-percent drop from a year ago, and 22 teams (34 percent) graduated at least 70 percent, down from 37 percent in 2007. Only 14 teams graduated less than 40 percent (22 percent, up from 19 percent a year ago).

"The GSR, developed in late 2005, provides a more accurate picture of the success student-athletes have in the classroom at NCAA member institutions," says Lapchick.

But the Black-White disparity still exists, Lapchick reminds us:

--61 percent of the teams (33 schools) graduated 70 percent or more of their White players, while only 30 percent (19 schools) graduated 70 percent or more of their Black players. This is a 31 percent gap -- it was 38 percent last year.

--70 percent (38 schools) graduated 60 percent or more of their White players, while only 37 percent of the schools (23) graduated a likewise percentage of Blacks -- a 33 percent gap, down three percent from last year's study

--83 percent (45 schools) graduated 50 percent or more of their White student-athletes, but only 57 percent (36 schools) did the same for their Black student-athletes -- a 26 percent gap. It was 41 percent last year.

"Race remains a continuing academic issue, reflected in the remaining substantial gaps between graduation rates for White and African-American student-athletes shown above," notes Lapchick

While people go ga-ga over who going where, what high seed a school got, and what RPI or win-lost record a team has, let's look at some of this year's teams' standings in regards to graduating its players.

Among the worst:
Arizona, 10th seed in the West -- graduated 100 percent of its White players; 0 percent of its Black players
Drake, 5th seed in the West -- 67 percent of its White players graduated; 0 percent for the Black players
Kentucky, 11th seed--East: All its White players graduated; only 9 percent of its Black players did

The following schools: Connecticut, Coppin State, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, Mississippi Valley State, Temple, UMBC, Villanova and Winthrop had a zero percent White graduation rate because they had no White players. Gonzaga's zero percent Black graduation rate is due to the fact that it had no Black players.

Among the best:
Davidson, 10th seed, Midwest: 100 percent Blacks graduated; 50 percent Whites graduated
Notre Dame, 5th seed, East: 100 percent Blacks and Whites graduated
Western Kentucky, 12th seed, West: The only school who graduated all of its players, regardless of race

"If we were to choose a Top Ten for Graduation Success Rates," claims Lapchick, "these schools would be there: Butler, Davidson, Marquette, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Purdue, San Diego, Villanova, Western Kentucky and Xavier. The Final Four would include Butler, Notre Dame, Purdue and Western Kentucky."

Unfortunately, the knuckleheads at CBS and ESPN don't care about this. They won't spend endless hours debating this, as they did about why so-and-so team didn't get in, and why someone else was sent out west or east or wherever. Lapchick's information won't see the light of day among those making out their brackets, or any breath used in their discussions on who will win this year's national championship.

This is the real score, the real world.

Let the games begin.

If you want to see the entire report, go to www.bus.ucf.edu/sport

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