6:42pm December 13, 2012

Report Ranks Winners and Losers on Black Athlete Graduation Rates


By Angela Haskell of The Philadelphia Tribune

On the heels of the recent college football Bowl Championship Series rankings, University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education has announced the results of its four-year study of athletes and racial inequities in college sports. It ranked the winners and losers on graduating Black male student-athletes successfully.

The report also outlines proven game-changing strategies for stakeholders ranging from the NCAA to journalists to the athletes themselves.

“While the graduation disparities were not surprising, what was surprising was the astounding pervasiveness and depth of the disparities, as well as the fact that institutional leaders, the NCAA and athletic conference commissioners have not done more in response to them,” said Shaun Harper, the report’s lead author.

“Research has yielded clear strategies for Black male student-athlete success – however, there needs to be the institutional will to implement these simple, and often low-cost, solutions – as well as accountability from the media and the athletes themselves.”

The champion institution was Northwestern University, with an impressive graduation rate of 83 percent for its Black male student-athletes – well above the average undergraduate rate for all schools studied, regardless of race, of 72.8 percent. In second place was the University of Notre Dame at 81 percent, a school which prides itself on its high student-athlete graduation rates.

Tied for third, Villanova University and Penn State University had a 78 percent graduation rate. On average, 50.2 percent of Black male student-athletes graduated within six years.

“The number one goal we have for every student-athlete is a Northwestern degree, and we’re pleased that the data reflects our success in accomplishing that,” said University vice president for athletics and recreation Jim Phillips.

“We’re here to provide a world-class experience –- academically, athletically and socially – for our student-athletes while they’re on campus, and prepare each of them for life beyond graduation.”

The data were gathered from 76 colleges and universities that comprise six major sports conferences: the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC. These conferences routinely win NCAA Division I football and men’s basketball championships, with millions at stake for their institutions.

The data followed cohorts from 2007-2010 and demonstrated, with only a few exceptions, that most of the universities studied have weak graduation rates for their Black male student-athletes, by almost any measure. Topping the list of the 10 universities with lowest Black male student-athlete graduation rates is Iowa State University, with a meager 30 percent of its Black student-athletes graduating. University of South Florida, University of Arizona and University of Arkansas were close behind with a 31 percent graduation rate.

“The percentage of Black men that composes the ranks of student-athletes gives us reason to pause and incentive to look further,” said Wharton Sports Business Initiative director and professor of legal studies and business ethics Kenneth L. Shropshire.

“Intercollegiate athletics provide college opportunity to young Black men and take them off the streets, or major sports programs take advantage of these students without serious care for their personal and academic success. They can’t both be right, can they?”

Between 2007 and 2010, Black men were 2.8 percent of full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students, but 57.1 percent of football teams and 64.3 percent of basketball teams.

“The authors provide data that are necessary to improve student-athlete success and develop policies that address longstanding racial inequities in college sports,” Shropshire said. “This study provides statistical insights into problems that are in need of accountability and policy response.”

About the Author

The Philadelphia Tribune
The Philadelphia Tribune


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