UCF Study: Men’s Basketball Graduation Rates Show Progress, But Racial Disparities Remain

By University of Central Florida Staff
Updated: March 14, 2006

FLORIDA—Thirty-five universities that will compete in the 2006 NCAA men’s basketball tournament failed to graduate more than half of their student-athletes based on their most recent Federal Graduation Rates reports, a University of Central Florida study shows.

If the Final Four were selected based on graduation rates, Bucknell, Florida, Illinois and Villanova would be competing for the national championship.

Those are two of the findings from the annual study of basketball teams’ graduation rates issued by UCF’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. Institute director Richard Lapchick’s analysis of women’s teams’ graduation rates is scheduled to be released Wednesday morning.

The men’s graduation rates represent an improvement over the 2005 tournament field, when 42 teams did not graduate at least half of their players.

“There is considerable good news for the tournament teams when we examine the Graduation Success Rates and the Academic Progress Rates in particular,” said Lapchick, who co-authored the study with Ryan Vandament. “The lingering bad news is the continuing disparity in the academic success between African-American and white men’s basketball student-athletes.”

The study showed that 38 men’s tournament teams graduated 70 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes, while only 21 teams graduated 70 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes.

Fifty-one teams graduated 50 percent or more of their white basketball student-athletes, but only 36 teams graduated 50 percent or more of their African-American basketball student-athletes.

Graduation rates for African-American student-athletes were based on 63 teams. Utah State University had no African-American basketball student-athletes during the time when the data were gathered. Graduation rates for white student-athletes were based on 58 teams, as six teams did not have any white players during the time when data were gathered. The University of Pennsylvania, like other Ivy League schools, does not report Federal Graduation Rates.

Despite the disparity between graduation rates for white and African-American student athletes, “it needs to be noted that African-American basketball players graduate at a higher rate than African-American males who are not student-athletes,” Lapchick said. “The graduation rate for African-American male students as a whole is only 35 percent, versus the overall rate of 59 percent for male white students, which is a scandalous 24 percentage point gap. One of the benefits of examining graduation rates is that they focus light on the fact that too many of our predominantly white campuses are not welcoming places for students of color, whether or not they are athletes.”

NCAA statistics were used in the study. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport reviewed six-year graduation rates for the four most recent freshman classes with available data. Those are the freshman classes of 1995 through 1998.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport serves as a comprehensive resource for issues related to gender and race in amateur, collegiate and professional sports. The institute researches and publishes a variety of studies, including annual studies of student-athlete graduation rates and racial attitudes in sports, as well as the internationally recognized Racial and Gender Report Card, an assessment of hiring practices in coaching and sport management in professional and college sport.