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Sunday, March 28, 2010

NCAA March Madness: Low Graduation Rates For Some - Why?

There has been a swirl of articles floating around on the internet pertaining to the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's statement that teams with a graduation rate below 40% should not be allowed in the NCAA tournament, something that the Chicago Sun-Times expanded on in its article, Low grad rate should bench NCAA teams, this past Sunday.

Much of the information currently presented centers its focus on basketball and March Madness stating that there are 12 teams in the men's tournament below this 40% level, some of which are as low as 8%. Sure had to scratch my head on that one. Do they go to class at the University of Maryland?

The women's DI basketball bracket seems to fare much better with only 3 teams below that 40% mark and no one anywhere near 8% (went back to research that again, could not believe my eyes). The statistical "out-of-balance" sheet holds true as we move up to both 60 and 70% graduation success rates (GSR) with women close to doubling the men in percentage at both of these levels (w 60% GSR=92% of total, m 60% GSR=58% of total, w 70% GSR=82% of total, m 70% GSR=45% of total).

So is it that women are that much smarter than the men..., or is it something else? I am sure my wife would concur that the former is true, something I certainly will not debate, however, those are some huge margins.

Well, I am not one to just look at articles and statistics from only one dimension. That tends to give a person blurred vision when it comes to interpreting data such as this. A primary question that comes to my mind is whether this is something relative only to basketball? Do other sports fare as poorly?

To find that out, let's go right to the source - The 2009 NCAA Division I GSR Data. Clicking on the All Division I link we find (when all DI schools are combined) that only 3 sports fall below 70% - Football, Basketball and Baseball. We also find that a good number of the sports on both sides of the gender bracket have GSR's of over 80%. (And yes dear, only the women have GSR averages in the 90's - Arrgh.)

Another key point, bringing this discussion back to basketball, is that there are a solid number of men's teams in the bracket whose GSR's are at or above 80%, and many of those in the women's bracket. That certainly proves, gender discrepancies aside, that it can be done, meaning much higher graduation rates than 40, 50 or even 60 %.

Ok then, what is going on here? If women basketball players can have much higher GSR's, men basketball players can have higher GSR's, and most all other sports as a group can have much higher GSR's, what's the deal with football, basketball, and baseball?

I am not sure about baseball and how that fits into the puzzle (some of you might be able to shed light on this), but football and basketball, well, I think it boils down to 3 things:

1. EXPECTATIONS - both in recruiting and performance when they are attending said university.

2. SUPPORT - I would think that universities with higher expectations would also put a higher priority on supporting these athletes in their academic endeavors.

3. Last, but certainly not least, MONEY - and the fear from those universities with lower academic expectations of losing their cash cows if they hold their athletes to higher standards. How sad is that?

From my vantage point, I would like to see all move toward adopting higher standards like, say, holding a GPA of 2.0 or higher and always being held in "good academic standing" which would in turn insure graduation, unless one decided to turn pro.

And we wonder who is supporting this sense of entitlement so many complain about regarding some high profile athletes. Could it be the environment that some of our own college systems are allowing, even encouraging, for a select few groups of athletes.

Nah, that couldn't be part of it.


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