Black Student-Athletes Are Making Strides

By Gregory Moore
Updated: December 5, 2007

**image3***SAN ANTONIO — The 2007 college football season ended last Sunday when the 32 bowl games were announced and the participants were made known. 32 bowl games. 64 Division 1 college football programs. One would think that this would be the best opportunity to showcase to the world the essence of what a student-athlete is, right?

Well for some it is but for the African American community it is once again a time where taking stock in the seriousness of school is thrusted upon the community and once again there is not a very favoring report on how well these young men are doing.

To be fair, the African American football players at the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools (the schools in which they are recognized to take part in the 32 bowl games if selected) graduate at a much higher rate than their non-football player counterparts; 50% vs. 37%. That in itself is both alarming and a godsend of sorts.

On the one hand it shows that African American males who are playing in a bowl game this year do take their education seriously and are graduating where as those who are not playing football seem to less inclined to make it to graduation. But what is also very troubling is the fact that this trend is also depicted in the report when compared to their White student-athlete/non student-athlete counterparts.

When compared to their counterparts, Black football players graduate at the 50% while their white counterparts graduate at a 64% grad rate. The 14% deficit is a gain from the 2006 number but what is truly troubling is the fact that white non-football male students graduate from college at a 61% while the black non-football male students graduate at the 37% mark. That is a 24% differential.

The study entitled “Keeping Score When It Counts: Assessing the 2007-08 Bowl-bound College Football Teams-Academic Performance Improves but Race Still Matters”, is written by Dr. Richard Lapchick, Director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida.

“The new study shows additional progress and continues to underline the success of Myles Brand’s academic reform package,” Dr. Lapchick said. “This year 88 percent (56 of the 64 schools), up from 86 percent in the 2006 report, had a 50 percent graduation rate for their football teams; 73 percent of the teams received a score of more than 925 on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) versus only 63 percent in the 2006 report.”

The APR that the NCAA set up is a tool that they use to see whether athletic programs are actually graduating students at an acceptable rate. In a nutshell, the APR program tracks the academic progress of student athletes and helps them reach their goal of graduation by showing both them and the athletic department where they should be during the school year.

If an athlete is not at the required APR position, then that student becomes ineligible for competition. The program has worked but Dr. Lapchick warns that much more is needed for African American students.

Lapchick added that, “In spite of the good news, the study showed that the huge gap between white and African-American football student-athletes remains a major issue; 27 teams or 42 percent of the bowl-bound schools graduated less than half of their African-American football student-athletes, while only Florida Atlantic graduated less than half of their white football student-athletes.”

There have been numerous editorials written about the importance of education for Black student athletes. The opportunity that is afforded to these gifted individuals is something that has sorely been scantily written on a continual basis. Again as the report points out, the strides made on the gridiron have far been better than years past but when compared to their white counterparts, they are still lagging behind.

What is also disturbing is the fact that when taken as a whole, black student athletes who are male lag behind their black female counterparts in the graduation room as well (see the NSAD study available at In the April 2006 study entitled “Significant Progress for African-American Students”, Black student athletes who are male graduated at a 48% rate according to the Federal Graduation Rate compared to 63% for their black female counterparts.

Despite the significant strides that both of these studies have shown, it is highly noted that there is still a major barrier for Black student athletes and non-athletes alike.

“It should be noted that African-American student-athletes, including revenue sport student-athletes, graduate at a higher rate than African-American males who are not student-athletes,” Dr. Lapchick said. “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.”

“This data for the significant improvement of African-American student-athletes indicates that our athletic departments may be doing a better job in creating an environment for success for African-American student-athletes than our institutions of higher education are in general.”

Lapchick continued, “However, race remains a continuing academic issue even for student-athletes. This is reflected in the remaining gaps between graduation rates for white and African-American student-athletes. This is an issue that we still do need to address on our campuses.”

Obviously there is a disparity that is still very prevalent in our society. Yet as this study does show, there are some strides being made even though many feel that the Black student athlete population should make greater strides.

Yet while the chasm is indeed narrowing a bit, the reality of the situation is that at least on the football side of the story, there is a large disparity between black football players and their white counterparts not only in the classroom but also on the graduation stage.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can get all of Dr. Lapchick’s studies on race, gender and diversity for all of the major sports by going to