Above the Grade

Dec. 7, 2004

Associated Press Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Twenty-seven of the 56 schools with bowl-bound football teams graduated less than half their players, according to a study released Tuesday.

The annual study by the Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida also showed that 39 of the schools graduated less than half of their black players.

Among the bowl teams, 51 of 55 graduated at least 40 percent of their white players, according to the study, while just 30 schools graduated at least 40 percent of their black players. Only six schools graduated a higher percentage of black players than white players.

There are 56 teams playing in this year’s bowl games, but only 55 teams were examined because Navy doesn’t release graduation rates. Last year, 32 bowl-bound teams graduated less than half of their football players.

The Iowa Hawkeyes rank 11th nationally with a graduation rate of 58 percent, a mark that includes a 38 percent rate for its black student-athletes.

UI Associate Athletics Director Fred Mims said the UI always has a higher target for its student-athletes and that it’s perhaps unfair to judge a program on one-year snapshots.

“We know where we stand long-term. This institution’s commitment and our department’s commitment is to the overall well-being of our student-athletes and that includes success academically while at the UI,” said Mims.

“You find the gaps between African-American and white football players a little bit wider at the bowl level,” said Richard Lapchick, the study’s author. “It’s a problem throughout Division I-A.”

The institute used NCAA statistics for the study. The statistics were taken from four freshman classes, beginning in 1994-95 and ending in ’97-98, with each class given six years to graduate.

This year, the NCAA reported that 54 percent of all football players graduated, an increase of 3 percent over last year. The general student body rate was 60 percent and the overall student-athlete rate was 62 percent.

The schools with the worst graduation rates, both overall and for black players, were Pittsburgh and Texas. Pittsburgh had an overall graduation rate of 31 percent and 20 percent for black players. Texas had an overall graduation rate of 34 percent, 33 percent for its black players.

Texas spokesman Bill Little said the study didn’t take into account that many football players left and graduated at other schools after coach Mack Brown took over the program in 1998.

“When you change coaches, there are guys who don’t want to play in that system,” Little said.

Pitt spokesman E.J. Borghetti said the report doesn’t reflect the school’s current graduation rate since 15 of 19 seniors on the team graduated last year, including eight of 11 black players.

“It’s key to emphasize the report is a snapshot of a football program in the middle of the last decade,” Borghetti said. “It’s not an accurate portrait of what our football program is in 2004.”

Syracuse (78 percent overall, 69 for black players), Notre Dame (78 and 74) and Boston College (77 and 76) had the best graduation rates overall and for black players.