Lapchick Rates NCAA Schools

By Off the BASN Sports Wire By Bart Fisher Of The Herald
Updated: December 21, 2005
CONNETICUTT—You kind of have to know who Richard Lapchick is to understand why what he says carries so much weight. Yes, he’s the son of Joe Lapchick, the legendary St. John’s basketball coach and arguably pro basketball’s first “great” center. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. The younger Lapchick has spent a lifetime attacking injustice and inequity in athletics. He helped found the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University which is now headed by New Britain’s Peter Roby. Lapchick is the Center’s Director Emeritus.

He is a human rights activist, a pioneer for racial equality and an internationally recognized expert on sports issues as well as the author of nearly a dozen books focusing of athletics and their potential role in bringing about positive societal change.

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Currently the holder of an endowed chair at the University of Central Florida Lapchick is the only person named as “One of the 100 Most Powerful People in Sport” to head up a sport management program. He remains President and CEO of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport and helped bring the NCAS national office to UCF.

The DeVos Sport Business Management Program which he oversees at UCF “focuses on the business skills necessary for graduates to conduct a successful career in the rapidly changing and dynamic sports industry.” His official biography on the UCF website adds “In following with Lapchick’s tradition of human rights activism, the curriculum includes courses with an emphasis on diversity, community service and philanthropy, sport and social issues and ethics in addition to UCF’s strong business curriculum.”

Okay, that’s who Richard Lapchick is. Here’s what he said in a recent Associated Press story that raised interest and eyebrows around the country: Over forty percent of the teams playing in this year’s bowl games fall below the new academic standard set by the NCAA and almost half of them fail to graduate 50 percent of their players. This is the first year Lapchick has used the governing body’s Academic Progress Rate or APR in his annual report on the academic achievements or lack of same at the bowl-bound schools. In the past his study relied only on graduation rates.The new NCAA tool appears to make it even easier to objectively quantify the raw data. Of course the question remains not just what does that data mean in terms of graduation rates and the ethical issues those sometimes shockingly low figures raise, but what can and should be done to ensure better outcomes?

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Lapchick reported nothing but good news about Northwestern University and Boston College for example. The Wildcats take a 7-4 record into their Sun Bowl match-up with 9-2 UCLA on Dec. 30 while the BC Eagles (8-3) face Boise State (9-3) Dec. 28 in the MPC Computers Bowl. Both BC and Northwestern graduated at least 78 percent of all football student-athletes and at least 74 percent of African-American football student-athletes.

Two conferences, the ACC and the Big East had every one of their bowl team schools earn an APR score higher than the 925 standard, and all the teams in both conferences were in the top 25 of APR rankings for bowl-bound schools, that Associated Press story noted.

We don’t have to go into a lengthy discussion about which teams got “failing grades” or why to understand that both the NCAA’s new benchmarks and Lapchick’s examination of them are very important. In a perfect world student-athletes, including those playing for the biggest of the bowl prizes, not to mention future multi-million NFL contracts would also be picking up their diplomas when their collegiate playing days are done.

In the real world, at least as it exists today however, some of the highest profile teams and conferences have fallen far short of the target. The NCAA will soon begin applying sanctions (loss of scholarships, etc.) against teams that continue to miss the academic benchmark.

In the meantime, it’s important that there are people of conscience like Richard Lapchick around to remind us that it’s not all about the hype and hoopla of the BSC or whether No. 1 USC beats No. 2 Texas for the national championship in the Rose Bowl come Jan. 4.

That’s not to say don’t enjoy the best college football of the year over the next three weeks. But obviously there is a lot more to think about than just who threw the most touchdowns or kicked the longest field goal in those games.