Opinion

Derrick Z. Jackson

Record touchdowns, but too many colleges still punt on disparities

As the college football bowls kick off, the scores in the classroom are already in. The best teams in the land cannot celebrate because of their large racial gaps in graduation rates between black and white players.

In my 19th annual Graduation Gap Bowl, Florida State, the defending national champion, graduated 57 percent of its black players, compared to 100 percent for the white players, giving it the worst racial gap of all 76 bowl teams, according to National Collegiate Athletic Association statistics. The Seminoles remain symbolic of big-time programs which refuse to join the schools that have felt the pressure to live up to the true ideal of student athlete.

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A record number of 27 teams, including Boston College, scored a “Touchdown” for having graduation rates of at least 50 percent for both black and white players and racial gaps of under 15 percentage points. The Touchdown schools had an average graduation rate of 78.4 percent for black players and 83.1 percent for white players. While wealthy private schools such as BC, Stanford, and Notre Dame continue to dominate the top of the list, it was refreshing to see more and more public universities join the elite, such as UCLA, Clemson and South Carolina.

But it remains sobering that not a single school in the Top 10 of the playoff rankings scored a Touchdown. The majority of schools, 43, instead earned a “First Down” for good graduation rates that were diminished by bad racial gaps. To be fair to Oregon, Ohio State and Alabama, their black player grad rates are acceptable at 60 percent, 68 percent and 72 percent respectively. But their much higher rates for white players maintains the image of exploitation, especially with 27 bowl schools now displaying much more equality. And five schools should not be playing at all, including ninth-ranked Mississippi and 24th ranked Southern California, with black player rates under 50 percent.

A look at the numbers:

The National Collegiate Athletic Association Graduation Success Rates report covers scholarship athletes who entered as freshmen 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08, and whether they graduated within six years of entry.

Black
White
Touchdown
Teams with graduation rates of at least 50 percent for both black and white players and racial gaps under 15 percentage points.
First down
Teams with black and white rates 50 percent or more, but had racial gaps of 15 or more percentage points.
Disqualified
Teams with a black or white graduation rate under 50 percent.
South Alabama data not available (Program too young for full data).

DATA: National Collegiate Athletic Association Graduation Success Rates

Globe Staff

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Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at jackson@globe.com.
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