It’s A Study That Comes Out Every Year That Nobody Truly Reads

By Gregory Moore
Updated: March 18, 2005

SAN ANTONIO, TX– It’s at topic that African Americans rarely talk about and many even know about. Every year about this time this conversation piece reaches the airwaves of sports talk radio and for the first days of the NCAA basketball tournament, the topic gets plenty of hype, discussion and scrutiny by those who think that the information is a waste of time. Yet how often is this topic even discussed after the first few days of April? How many parents have actually sat down with their kids and discussed what are the important benefits of a ‘free’ college education? In case you have no clue what is the hot topic outside of the office bracket pool contests, it is the annual UCF/Lapchick Study of NCAA Division I Basketball Team Graduation Rates and this year’s study shows an ongoing problem that is particularly of interest to those parents of African American basketball players.

The first time I was made aware of the study was last year down at the Marriott Riverwalk hotel during the weekend of the Final Four contest. That day was an unforgettable day because I had the opportunity to make some new friends and get to spend five glorious hours with former LSU head coach Dale Brown as he held court with Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and a few other folks. Yet prior to hanging out with coach Brown and his friends, Dr. Richard Lapchick was on Fox Sports Radio telling the listening audience about his study and why it was so important that the casual sports fan care about these young men and women. So as I read this year’s study and was preparing to give my annual state affairs on this topic, I remember something Coach Brown told me over a few bottles of wine and some good food.

“Greg, remember that you are talking about a segment of your community who truly do not understand the significance of a quality education. It’s a long-term goal that they don’t believe is realistic right now.”

Dr. Richard Lapchick has been doing studies on graduation rates and college teams in the post season for several years and has been a strong advocate for ensuring that Black college athletes graduate on par with their White counterparts.

So is that true? Are a good majority of the African American basketball players that Dr. Lapchick’s study points out only see the short term solution of escaping poverty by trying to use a college career as a stepping stone to the three letter league or is Coach Brown, myself and others just that far sighted and do not see the overall picture ourselves? I ponder the question because I’m a firm believer that this study does indeed shed some light on a situation that the Black community fails to even acknowledge. This is basically a study that the community doesn’t want to read because it tears into the very ‘Cinderella” fabric of the world as the community knows it. In past years maybe no one would take notice but this year’s study deserves the attention of the Black community and the community at large because there are some disturbing trends that need to be discussed in an open forum manner.

THE FIGURES THAT NOBODY WANTS TO SEE Dr. Lapchick’s study for 2005 showcased some very disturbing numbers that seem to suggest that something is just not kosher for the Black college athlete who plays basketball. A few highlights of the study are as follows and are taken directly from his study: • Less than three in 10 (17, or 28 percent) of the men’s tournament teams graduated 70 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes, while only 10 (16 percent) graduated 70 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes.

• More than two out of five (25, or 42 percent) of the men’s tournament teams graduated 60 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes, while fewer than one in five schools (12, or 19 percent) graduated 60 percent or more of their African-American basketball student athletes.

• Among the women’s teams, two-thirds (40, or 66 percent) of the schools graduated 70 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes and more than two out of five (24, or 41 percent) graduated 70 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes – more than double the percentages of the men’s teams.

Temple University’s John Chaney is one of the few Division I coaches who truly believe in seeing that his players graduate and his program is one of the more successful ones in getting that task accomplished.

• Three-fourths (46 schools) of the women’s teams graduated 60 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes and 59 percent (35 schools) graduated 60 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes – these rates were also substantially better than the men’s teams.

• Among the men’s teams, almost two-thirds (38, or 63 percent) of participant schools graduated 50 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes. Approximately one-third (22, or 34 percent) of the schools graduated 50 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes. That is in stark contrast to the nearly nine out of ten women’s teams (53, or 87 percent) that graduated 50 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes and almost three-fourths (43, or 73 percent) that graduated 50 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes.

• Nearly three-fourths (44, or 73 percent) of the schools graduated 40 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes, yet less than one-half (27, or 42 percent) graduated 40 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes. The vast majority (55, or 90 percent) of women’s teams graduated 40 percent or more of their white basketball student athletes and almost three-fourths (43, or 73 percent) schools graduated 40 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes.

A consensus Academic All American last year, Emeka Okafor (seen in his college uniform) graduated from the University of Conneticut in three years.

• In the men’s bracket, almost four out of five schools (47, or 78 percent) graduated 30 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes, while a little more than one-half (35, or 55 percent) schools graduated 30 percent or more of their African-American basketball student athletes.

• At this level women’s teams graduated at higher rate, with more than nine out of 10 (56, or 92 percent) graduating 30 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes and more than eight out of 10 (48, or 81 percent) graduating 30 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes.

These few highlights from this year’s study are indeed alarming and they should be as many have spoken on the fact that very few black college athletes, especially basketball players, are staying in school and graduating. It was just this past week that I made an appearance on a Florida sports talk show and was asked the question why many of the young men who play college football or basketball do not adhere to staying in school and I basically told them it had everything to do with the socio-economic structure of the household that these players came from.

“Not to butcher the Queen’s English or to make this sound like it’s a racial issue, but for the most part if you are not from an African American home, you cannot begin to understand the enormous pressures that are placed on many of these kids,” I said on Chicks on Sports with Anita Marks.

I was sincere in what I said on Marks’ show because even though the topic we discussed had nothing to do with this particular study, we were indeed talking about the ‘miseducation’ of the Black athlete. Yet I wonder, just how much more bite would the interview have been if this study was before us and we were indeed talking about a topic that rarely gets talked about even from the folks at the “U”? Just how much more fodder could this topic produce if there truly was a proper forum where it could be openly discussed and anyone who wanted to hear it could? Forget about the annual ESPN show they always highlight at 2 a.m. in the morning with a bunch of college coaches and stuff, this is a topic that really should be part of the ‘show prep’ material for a few months.

Dr. Lapchick’s study needs to be circulated to everyone who is in education and deal with athletes of color. It should almost be a mandate for reading for parents, coaches and the players alike. Yet every year this study comes out and the only time any of us even take notice is when the tournament is going on or it has been mentioned here or there in columns and web logs. If the truth was to really be told I think that everyone, myself included, is scared to really examine this study and previous ones like it more in depth. I honestly believe that those of us who want to really talk about the study, the NCAA’s new policy on graduation rates and scholarship levels or quotas, and other issues related to student athletes.

Right now we are all scared to look at this study and learn from it but if the whole community is to ever equal out the proverbial playing field for ALL athletes, then that means that something must be done to bring the graduation rates between Whites and Blacks to more equal levels. That means that the dirty laundry that everyone keeps shoving into the corners must be picked up, washed, dried and folded for all to see. Will this study help? Sure it will. But will it be read so that its information is used in a constructive manner? You tell me. Have you read it yet?

WRITER’S NOTES: The Lapchick Study can be found at the University of Central Florida’s website at http://news.ucf.edu/UCFnews/index?page=article&id=002400413206c3010220adacf2007a8e&mode=news.