On the surface, good news continues in my 18th annual Graduation Gap Bowl. Twenty-one teams in this season’s bowl games scored a “Touchdown” for having both high graduation rates and small racial gaps between black and white players, tying last year’s record.
Yet there remain troubling signs that athletic departments play it both ways, getting black players just over the 50 percent graduation mark, but doing little to close massive racial gaps. The national title game between Florida State and Auburn is a perfect example. Florida State has a graduation rate of 50 percent for black players, but 100 percent for white players; Auburn is 63 percent for black players, but 89 percent for white players.
That theme played out for most of the best teams on the field. An appalling number of powerhouses, including Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Alabama, and Louisville, had racial gaps of 30 percentage points and beyond.
The biggest gap was 46 percentage points at Texas, where 44 percent of black players graduated, compared with 90 percent of white players.
Among the troubling schools is North Carolina, where only 55 percent of the black football players graduate, compared with 88 percent of the white players. Meanwhile, a former professor has been indicted for teaching phantom courses to football players. If proven true, it is evidence that rising graduation rates are not yet ending the exploitation of athletes in big-time college sports.