Revisiting Graduation Rates
I was interested in reading both sides of the back-and-forth in the comments yesterday regarding graduation rates of student-athletes, so I wanted to raise the topic again today with some additional information.
The most notable figure among Maryland's scores was the men's basketball program's 10-percent graduation rate (which was up from zero last year). The school pointed out that nine of the 10 freshmen and transfers measurable by the GSR left school prior to graduating to pursue professional basketball careers and that one of the players who left early to play professionally returned to graduate from Maryland, but outside the NCAA’s six-year window. Still, the 10-percent figure was the lowest among any program at any school in the six major conferences.
We didn't do anything with the grad rates in the paper for a few reasons, mostly because (1) unlike the APR scores released in May, there is no potential consequence for low scores and (2) I feel like it's the same story every year: Myles Brand champions the overall grad rates (bolstered by field hockey players and gymnasts and the like) while quietly acknowledging there's still work to do in football and men's basketball, Richard Lapchick says the gap between the rates of African-American athletes and their white counterparts remains a concern, schools' PR departments attempt to spin their numbers in the most favorable way, and then we all come back a year later and do it again.
I personally have decidedly mixed views on this issue. At one level, all schools can do is provide as much opportunity and support as possible for their student-athletes; after that, individuals have to decide how seriously to pursue their studies. No one scrutinizes the grad rate in the chemistry department. At another level, no one builds luxury suites overlooking the chemistry department to
wine and dine entertain benefactors, and television networks don't pay big money for the rights to broadcast lecture halls.
Do schools take advantage of athletes in revenue sports? Sure, in some regards. Do athletes in revenue sports take advantage of schools? Sure, in some regards. Is it, on balance, a fair relationship? I don't know.
What can't be argued is that coaches who win games but whose players don't graduate get pay raises and coaches who lose games but whose players do graduate get fired. And before any of us are too quick to blame school presidents and athletic directors for that truth, realize that it is a direct result of our own actions. No one lines up to buy season tickets for the 4-8 team with a conference-leading graduation rate. As Michael Coreleone said (and yes, it all comes back to "The Godfather"), "We're all part of the same hypocrisy, Senator."
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