Much Ado About Nothing?

Temple Coach Baffled by Concerns About Athletes’ Lower Graduation Rates

OVERLAND PARK, KS
For the first time in fourteen years, there
has been an overall drop in the graduation rates for college athletes.
So now there seems to be some concern about athletes falling behind in
the classroom, and at least one African American coach finds that
concern a little disingenuous.

“I think the discussion about graduation rates is much ado about
nothing,” said John Chaney, basketball coach for Temple University.

Earlier this month, the National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA) issued its latest report on the graduation rates of scholarship
athletes attending its 308 Division I schools. The survey revealed the
first overall annual decrease since 1984 — the first year the NCAA
started tracking the number of athletes who complete their degrees
within six years.

The data for this latest report were compiled, for the first time,
by the federal government instead of the NCAA. As a result, the
criteria and reporting forms varied slightly from the past.

The report focused on the graduation rates of athletes who entered
school as freshmen in the fall of 1991. They were counted as graduating
only if they earned a degree by 1997 at the school they originally
entered. In this study, transfers who graduated from other schools were
not counted as having graduated from any school.

Graduation rates declined in fourteen of the fifteen
gender-and-race categories tracked by the NCAA. The only category that
did not see a decrease in graduation rates was White female basketball
players, which remained unchanged at 70 percent — the highest rate in
the survey.

Yet even with the decreases, the report noted that athletes still
graduated at a higher rate than the student body as a whole. According
to the report, 57 percent of athletes graduated as compared to 56
percent of the entire student body.

“The fact of the matter is that [overall] graduation rates are down
… in a year we did something different, and frankly, we don’t know
what that means,” NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro told The Washington Post.

Chaney is a bit baffled by concerns that athletes are losing ground
academically. In his mind, the prime issue is Proposition 48 — the
NCAA legislation introduced in 1986 which mandated stiffer academic
requirements for incoming freshmen athletes at Division I schools.
Charley has been a long-time opponent of Proposition 48.

“We’ve seen a drop in graduation rates, so that means the rates
have not increased because of Prop 48,” he said. “Athletes are
graduating at a higher rate than regular students, so I don’t see what
the big issue is. To me, making a mystery out of nothing is ridiculous.

“We’ve talked about youngsters in basketball not graduating, but we
never once talked about the number of youngsters who play other sports
but don’t graduate.”

But the issue of minority athletes and academics is a troubling one
for Chaney. What bothers him most is a perception that Black athletes
make up a significant percentage of athletes who fail to graduate from
school. That is a bit ironic, considering the NCAA’s latest report.

The biggest drop in graduation rates occurred among White male
basketball players. The fall from 58 percent to 47 percent marked to
lowest numbers for that group since the NCAA began compiling that data.
And although the graduation rate for African American male basketball
players remained below that of White male basketball players, the rate
for Blacks dropped just a couple of percentage points — from 39
percent to 37 percent.

“There’s been a lot of talk about youngsters not graduating when
they leave school and … making money [playing professional sports].
Unfortunately, the finger was pointed at some of the minorities and not
necessarily at the sports where youngsters are privileged [– like golf
and tennis],” Chaney noted. “Nothing was said about [Andre] Agassi and
the rest of those guys who started out at seventeen years old [and
turned] into millionaires. But we fred that when a Black kid does it,
it’s a big problem.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Howard Athletes Score Perfect Gradation Rate

WASHINGTON — Every one of the twenty-four athletes who scholarship
entered Howard University in the fall of 1991 has graduated, according
to the NCAA. The scholarship athletes’ graduation rate is nearly twice
that of all Howard students who enrolled in 1991.

With its scholarship athletes achieving a perfect graduation rate
over six years, Howard is one of three schools among the NCAA’s 300
Division I institutions to earn the distinction. Xavier University in
Ohio had thirty scholarship athletes to graduate within six years, and
the University of North Carolina-Asheville had six. The NCAA began
compiling data on athletes entering as freshmen starting with those who
enrolled in the fall of 1984.

Howard officials say the graduation rates of its athletes have been
increasing since the data has been available. In the mid-1980s,
scholarship athletes at Howard graduated at a rate lower than the rest
of the student body because of poor academic performance.

Observers say that Howard coaches more recently have enforced
effective studying practices among their athletes, which has helped
lead to higher graduation rates. Along with employing two, full-time
academic counselors and numerous tutors, the Howard athletic department
supplies five laptop computers to athletes to use on road trips. —
Ronald Roach

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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