Playing football and going to college is not a shoo-in to earning a degree. For African-Americans ball players that road traveled is a still a considerable challenge compared to their white teammates.
Schools participating in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision games show as much, according a report released in December by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES).
“The gap between white and African-American student-athletes continues to be a major issue standing at 19 percent this year,” Dr. Richard Lapchick, author of the Racial and Gender Report Card, said in the report. “Among the 70 bowl-bound teams the average GSR African American student-athletes is 65 percent, up from 62 percent in 2012.
“The average GSR (Graduation Success Rate) for white student athletes went from 82 percent last year to 84 percent this year. In addition, 13 percent of the bowl eligible schools (9 out of 70) graduated less than half of their African-American football student athletes, while no team graduated less than half of its white football student athletes.”
The numbers are more outrageous when you consider that 16 of the 70 schools in the TIDES report have a 30 percent or more separation in GSR for black football players in comparison to white football student-athletes. This would include Florida State, which defeated Auburn for the BCS National Championship to conclude the 2013 college football season.
Florida State has a 100 percent GSR for its white football players.
The numbers are not so promising for Florida State’s black players. Shamefully, Florida State graduate just 50 percent of its African American football student-athletes. The Seminoles are not alone in falling short of getting the most out of its black players academically. Alabama, which has claimed two of the last three national Division I college football titles, looks likes a team divided in the classroom.
Alabama provided a GSR of only 61 percent of its African-American players in comparison to 96 percent of its white student-athletes. Oklahoma, Alabama’s opponent in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, had the worst percentage of graduating its black football players of all the 70 FBS schools in the TIDES report. Oklahoma is one of 33 schools (47 percent) that have a 20 percent gap or more in its GSR between black and white football players.
The Sooners graduate just 43 percent of its African American football players. Auburn has a 26 percent difference in its black players (63 percent) walking across the stage compared to its white student-athletes (89 percent).
“It must be emphasized that African-American and white football players graduate at a higher rate than their male nonathletic peers in the student body,” Lapchick said. “The graduation rate for African American male students as a whole is only 45 percent, in comparison to the 67 percent graduation rate for white male students, according to the NCAA Education and Research Data. That 22 percent gap for the general student population remains scandalous and totally unacceptable for education in America. The problem goes back to the academic preparation students get before the ever get to college.”
All hope is not lost, however. There are some encouraging aspects of the report to highlight the academic progress of some institutions. Every year, Lapchick and TIDES put out its annual education monitoring project that looks at the graduation rates of student athletes participating with teams in college bowl games.
Of course, the numbers differ year to year. In releasing this latest report on the graduation rates of college football bowl teams, Lapchick and TIDES came up with several overlooked noteworthy achievements by a small percentage of schools.
Rice University is the only school to graduate 100 percent of its black football players. It is also the only football program to graduate more of its black players (100 percent) than white student-athletes (95 percent). Notre Dame, which played in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, produced a GSR of its black football players at 97 percent.
With Lapchick and TIDES monitoring the academic progress of student-athletes at these institutions of higher learning, attention paid to the details of graduation rates have grown significantly.
TIDES, in many ways, is the watchdog on racial diversity in sports, examining the difference in graduation rates of African American and white student-athletes and whether or not the schools are faking the funk in higher education or are really into making sure these individuals earn their degrees.
“The academic success of FBS football student athletes continued to grow this year,” Lapchick said in a released statement. “The overall football student athlete Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for bowl bound teams improved from 69 to 72 percent.”
The four teams playing in the Rose Bowl (Stanford-Michigan State) and the BCS National Championship (Florida State-Auburn) games provide a measuring stick on the academic progress of college football players. The same can be said of the four teams participating in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Northern Illinois-Utah State) and the National University Holiday Bowl (Texas Tech-Arizona State).
These four teams are particularly highlighted because the bowl destinations for the eight schools mentioned happen to fall in the sunshine state of California. Not too many schools can outdo Stanford when it comes to players hitting the books and walking across that stage with a diploma. According to TIDES’ latest report, Stanford, playing in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, graduate 93 percent of its football student-athletes.
And there weren’t too much of a gap between black and white players. The African Americans on Stanford’s football team graduate at an 85 percent clip, while the white players on the team graduate at a higher rate at 94 percent. Michigan State graduate 70 percent of its football players, still an awesome achievement.
However, there is a 22 percent difference in the graduation rates between African Americans and white players on the team. The graduation rates for African Americans stand at 61 percent, which pales to the 83 percent of white players earning their diplomas.
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”