Shifting in Division I-A Conference Influences Graduation Rates

Shifting in Division I-A Conference Influences Graduation Rates

ORLANDO, Fla.
Recent changes in the Division I-A conference has not only influenced the game of football but conference graduation rates as well, according to a new study.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida last month released “The Classroom Counts,” a study of the effect of Division I-A football realignment on conference graduation rates.
“The classroom record of student-athletes was barely mentioned amidst all the chess moves made between conferences over the last few months. In all the discussions about shifts of powerful ‘teams,’ the student-athlete was hardly mentioned. ‘The Classroom Counts’ analyzes conference graduation rates, taking into consideration the recent changes in the Division I-A football landscape,” says Dr. Richard Lapchick, author of the study and director of the institute.
“Conference USA had the biggest improvement, increasing the graduation rate for all football student-athletes from 42 to 57 percent, and jumping from 39 to 55 percent for African American football student-athletes. It went from a ninth-place ranking in both categories to second and first place, respectively. The high graduation rates of newcomers Rice, Tulsa and Southern Methodist bolstered the overall rates,” says Lapchick, who also chairs the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at UCF.
Graduation rates were reviewed for all institutions that participated in Division I-A football. Based on the current conference structure, an average graduation rate was calculated for each Division I-A conference. A new average graduation rate was calculated based on the changes announced for 2005.
Some of the study’s other findings include:
• The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which initiated the realignment process with the addition of Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech, started and ended with the top average overall graduation rate for football with a slight increase from 58 percent to 59 percent overall. It maintained the third best record for African American football student-athletes with a one-point increase to 52 percent.
• For the Big East, which brought in Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida, average graduation rates for football student-athletes dropped from 52 percent to 46 percent. Overall, the Big East went from fourth best to eighth out of 11 conferences, and slipped from fifth to sixth place for African American football student-athletes.
• The PAC 10 and Big Ten, which kept the same members, remained near the top of both lists. The PAC 10 was second for overall football (57 percent) and African American football (53 percent) graduation rates. The Big Ten slipped from third to fourth overall (56 percent) and it kept the fourth spot for African American football student-athletes with a 49 percent graduation rate.
• The conferences with the lowest graduation rates, both overall and for African American football student-athletes, remained at the bottom. The Sun Belt lost New Mexico State and Utah State, and saw their overall rate drop from 42 to 40 percent, while their graduation rate for African American players remained the same at 34 percent. Mountain West, which had the worst records by far, showed an increase overall from 30 to 34 percent and among African American football student-athletes, the rate rose from 26 to 29 percent. 
For more information on the study, visit the Web site www.bus.ucf.edu/sport.



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