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March 24, 2004

Low Grad Rates For Basketball Tournament Teams

FROM TWO SEPARATE STUDIES come results showing that Final 65 / 64 men’s and women’s basketball teams continue to yield only mediocre graduation rates.

Both reports were released this week: one from the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics and the other from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, at the University of Central Florida.

For example, among the 300-plus D1 men's teams, the average graduation rate was 42%; far lower than the 57% rate for all D1 students.

Both reports were highly critical of the lack of availability of graduation rates for all institutions with two or fewer graduates, which had stemmed from the NCAA’s practice of not approaching schools directly for graduation information—due to student privacy guidelines prohibiting campus-specific data.

Consequently, the NCAA will publish the suppressed (by the Department of Education) information in the future. President Myles Brand issued a forceful statement, "We cannot allow this decision by the DOE to blot the sunshine from how intercollegiate athletics is doing with its most important objective -- educating student-athletes."

The annual NCAA basketball tournaments have provided a visible and convenient backdrop for the release of graduation rates figures. Some of the worst rates come from the most renowned basketball schools.

For the Final 65 men’s tournament teams (from ’03 NCAA graduation report):

 Eight of the 11 teams for which information was available had rates at least 20 percentage points lower than the rate for other students at their institutions.

 Less than 50% of players on 44 of the 65 teams in the men's tournament graduated.

 Highest rates: Stanford 100%, Lehigh-90%, Dayton-82%.

 Lowest rates: E. Washington-14%, Arizona-23%, Utah-25%.

For the Final 64 women’s tournament teams (from ’03 NCAA graduation report):

 Highest rates: Colgate-100%, Montana-92%, Notre Dame-85%.

 Lowest rates: Houston-32%, Southern-32%, Auburn-38%.

For the men’s Sweet Sixteen teams:

 Rates were unavailable for 5 of the Sweet Sixteen teams because the Education Department had suppressed them.

 Only four of the Sweet Sixteen men's teams had graduation rates of 50% or better: Kansas-73%, Duke and Xavier-67%; and Vanderbilt-62%.

 Of the 12 schools in the men’s Sweet Sixteen with below 50% grad rates, seven graduated one-third or fewer of their players: Alabama, Alabama-Birmingham, Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Nevada, Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh.

A Washington Post article quoted Knight Commission co-chairman—and former University of North Carolina president—William Friday as saying, "That kind of record legitimizes the criticism of the university community as creating an entertainment industry and not doing its moral duty toward the students who enroll as student-athletes."

If the NCAA incentives / disincentives proposals are implemented in anywhere near their present form, then there will become a considerably different make-up for future tournament teams. They will become more student-like and less athlete-like.

And less like entertainment?

(this excerpt was drawn from an article published on 3-24-04 in The Chronicle Of Higher Education, plus another article from The Washington Post of 3-23-04. Supporting statistics come from the 2003 NCAA Graduation Report)