Black Female Student-Athletes Post High Graduation Rates, NCAA Study Says: Black College Overall Rates to Improve, Promise Administrators

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Black Female Student-Athletes Post High Graduation Rates, NCAA Study. Says: Black College Overall Rates To Improve, Promise Administrators

Forget the TV sitcoms, college jocks and jockettes are not brainless beings. In fact, they graduate at a higher rate than students not actively engaged in college athletics.

A recently released NCAA study on graduation rates for student-athletes, which targeted the 302-member institutions in its Division I, reveals that, on average, student-athletes graduate at a slightly higher rate than regular students. More specifically, Black female athletes fare much better than their Black male counterparts and other Black females. While the rates rose for most athletes, the numbers for Black male basketball players took a slight dip.

The interest in athletes' graduation rates was spawned by the organization's controversial Proposition 48, which stiffened their academic eligibility requirements in 1986. Under the new rules, athletes were required to have at least a 2.0 grade point average in 11 high school core courses and score 700 (now 820) on the SAT or 15 (now 17) on the ACT, in order to get a scholarship and play as freshmen at a Division I school. Beginning this fall, the number of core courses will be upped to 13.

The study focused on freshman student-athletes who entered Division I institutions in the fall of 1988 and graduated within a six-year period -- the recently graduated class of '95 would represent the cut-off date. Only student-athletes who received athletic aid were tracked during this period.

The study's findings include:

- The national average for student-athletes graduating was 58 percent; for regular students, 57 percent;

- More Black female athletes (58 percent) were awarded their cap and gown than were regular Black female students (41 percent) and Black male athletes;

- Black male athletes (42 percent) had higher graduation rates than Black males who aren't athletes (34 percent);

- The rate for Black male basketball players dropped -- from 39 percent for the 1987 freshman class to 37 percent for the entering class the following year -- but is still higher than the rate for non-jock Black males; and

- White male basketball players experienced the biggest graduation rate drop -- going from 57 percent for those who entered in 1987 to 50 percent during the beginning tracking year of 1988.

Tracking HBCUs

Graduation rate results reported by historically Black colleges and universities were a mixed bag. There are 18 HBCUs in Division I, and of that total, 13 have higher graduation rates for student-athletes than the general student body. Coppin State (75 percent) and Bethune Cookman (67 percent) led the pack, while Prairie View A&M (18 percent), Tennessee State and Texas Southern (both 23 percent) posted the lowest rates.

"We recruit people who we feel can compete athletically and graduate," says Lynn Thompson, Bethune Cookman's athletics director. "We don't worry about being a pro football or pro basketball factory. We recruit on the premise that when our kids finish, they will be a pro at something."

Bethune Cookman jumps the gun at the start of each school year by bringing in consultants to tutor student-athletes in time management, refining study habits and developing the right kind of preparation techniques to successfully perform college-level work.

Its small size -- represented by 2,300 students -- works to the institution's advantage because athletes cannot neglect their studies for too long a period without a faculty member becoming wise to the situation.

"We're small enough that we know everybody," Thompson says. "Teachers have carte blanche to come to any practice to see if there are any athletes who are missing classes. We pull people off the field or off the court -- on the spot. Our rule is simple. If you don't go to class, you go home."

Turnovers and Transfers

The numbers at Texas Southern and Tennessee State appear to be victims of unforeseen -- and similar -- circumstances. …

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