Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Is the NCAA Playing a Numbers Game?

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Is the NCAA Playing a Numbers Game?

Article excerpt

While the National Collegiate Athletic

Association has spent all summer

putting a happy face on its

annual Division I Graduation-Rates

Report, others caution

that, to avoid being misleading,

the rates need to be put into

perspective.

Claiming that Division I student athletes who

receive athletic scholarships continue to graduate at a

higher rate than non-athletes, the report is the fourth

issued by the association since Proposition 48 -- which

requires student athletes to meet certain academic

requirements in order to be eligible to play sports as

freshmen -- went into effect. The requirements included a

minimum standardized test score, plus a certain grade-point

average in a core of college preparatory classes.

According to the report, the number of student

athletes who graduated in the class entering in 1989 was

14 percent higher than the class that entered

in 1985-86, the last year before Proposition 48 became

effective. During the same period, the total number of

student athletes went up only 2 percent.

Also, according to the report, approximately 20

percent more Black student athletes graduated in the

class that entered college in 1989 as compared to the

class entering in 1985.

NCAA Executive Director Cedric Dempsey was

enthusiastic about the report, saying, "Now that we

have four years of data from classes that entered college

after Proposition 48 went into effect, I'm pleased to see

that the goal of higher graduation rates was met. By

asking high-school student athletes to do a better job of

preparing academically for college, we've ensured that

more of them will be successful in getting a degree."

Undeserved Credit

But, there are those who believe the NCAA is taking

too much credit for the improved rates while continuing

to ignore those who are denied athletic scholarships

because of the rigid academic standards. A

disproportionate number of those who fall short of the

standards are Blacks, generally tripped up on the

required standardized test score. Blacks tend to score

lower on such tests than their white counterparts.

Marilyn Yohe, a program associate with Fair Play,

which has rigorously protested Proposition 48, said the

NCAA has put up a smoke screen with the graduation

rates because, "as we've looked over the past ten years

or so, graduation rates as a whole have gone up. The

graduation rates of athletes and non-athletes reflect an

overall trend in graduation rates rather than the result of

stricter academic standards."

As a result, the graduation rates "really don't say a

thing," Yohe said. "I think the main thing I get out of

them is it has been consistently similar with athletes and

non-athletes and initial eligibility rules don't make a big

difference in graduation rates. But even if there was an

increase in graduation rates, it comes at a high price. It

comes at a price of excluding athletes who would have

graduated if they had been able to attend."

NCAA research showed that a high proportion of

student athletes who fall short of the newly instituted

academic standards would actually graduate from college

if given the opportunity. Despite such evidence, the

NCAA chose to adopt the standards anyway.

"We have to look at who we are harming," Yohe

said. "If you raise academic standards, graduation rates

may go up. But you will continue to exclude

people who have every

right to go to school and

the right to play" athletics.

Yohe said that instead of

looking at the academic

standards as the key to

graduation rates, the NCAA

should look more to other

positive initiatives that

have been taken over the

past few years. …

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