Graduation Rate Gap Persists for Black, White Bowl Football Players

Updated Dec 6, 2016

Black and White football players continue to demonstrate stark disparities in their college education outcomes. A new report shows a 19 percent gap in the graduation rate of Black and White bowl-bound, NCAA football players.

Black players graduated at a rate of 68 percent, up from 66 percent the year before, while White players graduated at a rate of 87 percent, up from 85 percent the year before. Overall, Black and White players made an incremental increase in graduation rates this year. The combined Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for Black and White football student-athletes was 75 percent, up from 73 percent in 2015.

“I’m encouraged that graduation rates continue to go up, but I’m discouraged that the gap between African American and White student athletes remains as large as it is,” said Richard Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES). The institute produces an annual report on the graduation success of bowl-bound football players.

Current disparities in graduation performance hold steady from past years, Lapchick said.

Football players outperform their peers as a whole, according to NCAA data. Black male students graduate at a rate of 41 percent, compared to 65 percent of White male students. The six-year graduation rate for freshmen starting out in fall 2010 was 54.8 percent, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

Other findings from the study reveal that four of the 80 schools reviewed graduate fewer than half of their Black players. In addition, 13 schools had GSRs for Black players that were 30 percentage points lower than their White teammates, a decrease from 18 percent in 2015.

Black football players outperformed their White peers in terms of graduation rates at four schools: South Carolina, Air Force, Southern Mississippi, and San Diego State. The differential was highest at Air Force, where the GSR of Black players was 3 percentage points higher than their White peers. Black and White football players at Louisville had the same GSR.

Lapchick offered a few recommendations on how to close the graduation success divide between Black and White football student-athletes. Colleges ought to examine closely the academic potential of student-athletes, he said.

“We have to be 100 percent sure that, if we’re recruiting a student-athlete, they have the abilities to be successful at that school,” Lapchick said.

Another critical area is representation among leadership, he added. According to a TIDES report out in late November, the overwhelming majority of presidents, athletic directors, and conference commissioners of Football Bowl Subdivision schools and conferences where White.

Staff writer Catherine Morris can be reached at cmorris@diverseeducation.com.