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Posted at 12:25 AM ET, 01/11/2011

Auburn football team champs on field but not in graduation rates

By Valerie Strauss

Auburn University’s football team won the national collegiate football championship, but the Tigers aren’t exactly champs when it comes to graduation rates.

According to the Academic Progress Rate, a four-year assessment by the NCAA of the movement toward graduation for a team’s players, Auburn has dropped from No. 4 to No. 85 among the120 major college football programs.

The drop was caused when Auburn closed academic loopholes that had allowed football players to pad their grade point averages and remain eligible to play by taking easy courses, according to a story in The New York Times.

In addition, a study of 2010-11 bowl-bound college teams conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida showed that Auburn has the highest disparity in graduation rates between white and black players of any major football team. White players graduate at the rate of 100 percent; black players 49 percent.

The University of Oregon, according to that study, graduates 76 percent of white players and 41 percent of its African-American players.

The study, released last month, showed that five of the bowl-bound schools had graduation success rates for African-American football student-athletes that exceeded their rates for white football student-athletes: Northwestern (one percentage point higher), Virginia Tech (three percentage points higher), Southern Mississippi (three percentage points higher), Notre Dame (four percentage points higher) and Troy (10 percentage points higher).

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been vocal about the importance of college sports teams maintaining high graduation rates.

In an interview on Monday with Washington Post reporters and editors, he repeated that position, saying teams that do not have a graduation rate of at least 40 percent should not be allowed to participate in post-season play. He added that any sanctions for wrongdoing brought by the NCAA on a particular program should also follow the coach under whom they occurred.

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 11, 2011; 12:25 AM ET
Categories:  Sports  | Tags:  auburn, auburn beats university of oregon, auburn national champs, auburn no. 1, bowl championship, bowl champs, football and graduation rates, national champs, ncaa  
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Comments

Anyone watching these sports understands "Student-Athlete" is a marketing label. I tire of hearing about "true freshman" and fifth (and sixth) year seniors.

Could the disparity be that whites seek an education whereas their black counterparts seek a career?

Posted by: krankyman | January 11, 2011 2:22 AM | Report abuse

Ahhh yes!! Another WP writer pulls the race card! I always assumed college and pro football players were just team players, not black or white players... But then the WP always breaks everything down by race.

A racist is someone who always judges by a persons race and let's face it, the WP is a racist's dream paper!

Posted by: joeblotnik49 | January 11, 2011 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Valerie, like the old proverb says, there are lies, damn lies, and then statistics. Is is possible that more black atheletes, compared to white atheletes, leave college early in order to go into the NFL draft thereby not graduating? Is it also possible that the schools you cited that have good black graduation rates also have very few NFL quality players which means the atheletes are more likely to stay for graduation? More research into your story is needed instead of knee jerk reaction to superficial statistics. If you haven't noticed, the NFL has become a black dominated sport. And also, if you haven't noticed, alot of those black players are coming to the NFL before graduation. Should we really expect a 20 old young man to stay in college for another year or two to obtain a degree in sports information management instead of signing an NFL contract? Just saying...

Posted by: ericcollins43 | January 11, 2011 8:09 AM | Report abuse

"In an interview on Monday with Washington Post reporters and editors, he [Duncan] repeated that position, saying teams that do not have a graduation rate of at least 40 percent should not be allowed to participate in post-season play."

The narrow focus of Duncan and his predecessors on "results" rather than the learning process that leads to them has already incentivized the wrong behaviors in K-12. Implement this as a policy and colleges will water down courses for athletes even more than they are now and leave them with worthless college diplomas.

Posted by: joshofstl | January 11, 2011 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be a great message to send if the team with the highest graduation rate were invited to the white house?

Posted by: bkr07 | January 11, 2011 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Dear Sirs: The glass is not half empty, but half full. It appears to me that the statistics say Auburn won on and off the field. Auburn graduated 49% of its African-American players to Oregon's 41%. And, Auburn graduated 100% of its White player compared to a 76% rate for Oregan.

Posted by: CarolinaDave | January 11, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Another example of incomplete and biased reporting. Auburn is ranked 85th. However, Michigan is ranked 84th and Minnesota is ranked 86th, both excellent schools. Thirty-five top schools are ranked BELOW Auburn. It has problems, however, why lead the story as though Auburn is the only school with such problems? For every winner, there's someone who hates to see them win. Every school with a lower ranking, moved in that direction for a reason. The formulation of the statistic should also be questioned. Why is there no adjustment for players who leave early for the NFL? Should Stanford be lower-ranked (in Golf) because Tiger Woods left early? As a "drop-out", he's seems to be doing okay. Reporters should "report" the news and not "make up" scenarios by leaving out key components. Remember....tell the "whole truth and nothing but the truth"! Instead of the school losing scholarships, the penalty should be assessed against the salary of the coach. How in the world does a Nobel prize-winning professor make $200,000 per year and the football coach make $4 million? A university is not a hedge fund. The coach shouldn't make huge amounts only because athletics brings in more cash. The players are the productive unit, but get little other than a scholarship and a lot of scrutiny. Players should realize the value of the "opportunity" to attend college and optimize their stay. ESPN and others will always "talk up" the coach and coordinators, so much so that you never know whether the competition is between the teams or the coach/coordinators. Why spend more time during a game with the camera on the coach/coordinators than on the game and the players? Even with private donations to athletics, student tuition pays for a lot of the infrastrure, other assets, and operating costs which allows the athletic teams to bring in the big dollars. Yet, there's no revenue sharing and athletics (no players) keeps it all. The problem is the lack of prerequisites for many athletes, White and Black. One solution is for all universities to have strict academic standards and let high school athletes with deficiences satisfy those requirements with one or two years study after graduation, but before college. This approach will yield improved student-athletes and let those individuals realize that they also have the intellect to compete in academics. Athletes who choose to remain unprepared can take their chances in a new, stricter system which will not accept failure. Funding for this intermediate learning process can come directly from cash flows which would normally go to overpaid coaches. Athletes are people too! They're also just as smart as "regular people" when they apply themselves.

Posted by: as554629 | January 11, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

More than anything else, you have to love the commenters on websites!

Thank you all for adding insight and knowledge while exposing the media for what it is.........and 'it' is certainly less interested in the facts and all about cheerleading one side over the other.

Posted by: jeffreid2 | January 11, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Dearest Valerie:

So Auburn University doesn't graduate a lot of football players. I guess you haven't read a real paper lately. This story has been going around some time now:

1. Color Lines Magazine, 06 Jan2011
"Auburn Football Program Drops the Ball on Academics"
2. New York Times, 05JAN2011
"Auburn Is First in One Ranking, 85th in Another"
3. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 06JAN2011
"Auburn's success in the classroom"

How tough is it to rewrite another writer's work, and how much do you get paid to turn in old news?

And which Institution of Higher Learning did you attend to hone your plagiarism skills? Get a real job, at a real newspaper, find an undiscovered fact, and maybe you won't be charged First Degree Attempted Plagiarism.

An old saying goes like this: "A day late, a dollar short." Well, you're almost a week late, and whatever you're paid, it's probably way to much.

If you're looking for otherlate breaking stories, Here are some suggestions for your literary style:
"US Sends First Troops To Vietnam"
"Prince Charles To Marry Diana Spencer"
"It Snowed Somewhere Today"

And to soothe the pangs of the other commenters here, this story is not about racism. It's about poor journalism.

I guess they don't call your rag "The ComPost" for nothing. Please immediately cancel my subscription, if I have one.

Yours Truly,
A Southern Gentleman

Posted by: AUWarEagle1974 | January 11, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I was hoping to share this article with friends on a social media site. Instead, I'm feeling obligated to write a comment. Your piece left a bad taste in my mouth. I thought the story might be a connection between athletic success and graduation rate failures. Instead it pitted blacks against whites. We won't ALL be able to raise graduation rates if we continue to draw lines between people.

Posted by: tevans1 | January 11, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

"Is is possible that more black atheletes, compared to white atheletes, leave college early in order to go into the NFL draft thereby not graduating?"

You must not be a big NFL fan, or you'd know exactly how many players get drafted each year. Instead of thinking about the disparity in graduation rates of NCAA football players, you assume that the black players are leaving to play in the NFL, interesting.

"Another example of incomplete and biased reporting. Auburn is ranked 85th. However, Michigan is ranked 84th and Minnesota is ranked 86th, both excellent schools. Thirty-five top schools are ranked BELOW Auburn."

Weird, why would she focus on Auburn and Oregon...? I feel like they must have done something recently, I just can't put my finger on it... Some sort of game or contest, nope, skipped my mind.

"We won't ALL be able to raise graduation rates if we continue to draw lines between people."

I'll take this one, out of the many posts that meet this criterion. Imagining that black and white students are exactly the same (aside from skin color) is a huge problem that only serves to further disenfranchise black students. Just because black students get to go to the same school as whites (though our schools are so segregated it's nearly unbelievable) doesn't mean we get to forget about the generations and generations of blacks who were actively denied education, forced into menial labor, and denied opportunity. Do you really think that history doesn't have an influence on opportunities?

I'm glad people like you all post, it makes me lunch break so entertaining. Thanks!

Posted by: mej8h | January 11, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

None of the comparisons of graduation rates by ethnicity seem to have been controlled for any index (SAT/ACT scores, high-school rank or grades, for example) with known predictive validity vis a vis college performance (grades, attrition, for example).

In any event, bkr07, suggested a great incentive for institutions to assure that their student-athletes graduated: "Wouldn't it be a great message to send if the team with the highest graduation rate were invited to the white house?"

Attrition is to some extent under the control of an institution of higher learning. It seems likely that the prospect of a White House appearance for the team with lowest attrition would lead to improved graduation rates for student-athletes (at Auburn, for example) while not detracting one whit from the quality of the teams involved-- which would continue to give a good account of themselves on the way to still another bowl game. The prospect of appearing as a double winner could be heady.

Posted by: Gonzage1 | January 11, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

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