As impressive as the 107-game winning streak and four straight national titles that the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team took into this year’s March Madness, is another streak just as important: The Huskies have had a 100 percent team Graduation Success Rate the last three seasons.
Coach Geno Auriemma has not had a team graduation rate below 90 percent for the last 11 years running in the annual reports by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Not distracted by the fact that many UConn players go on to professional stardom, or worn out by women playing as many games in the modern era as men, the Huskies’ black and white players equally walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.
While the men have shown much improvement in my 21 years of reviewing graduation rates during college basketball tournament and football bowl season, the Huskies and a host of women’s teams remain the gold standard of the term “student athlete,” particularly with regard to African-American players. I find poor black graduation rates to be a reliable indicator of exploitation, but of the 64 women’s teams, 52 have black grad rates of at least 80 percent. In the 68-team men’s field, only 30 squads can make that claim.
Thus, the men’s field remains far more disparate in their academic achievements. The news to cheer is that three of the top four-seeded teams — defending champion Villanova, Kansas, and Gonzaga — and second-seeded Duke have 100 percent Graduation Success Rates for black and white players. But there remain a disturbing 11 schools that should not be in the tournament at all, considering that they have black or white graduation rates under 50 percent, with the gutter for black players being occupied by UCLA, at 17 percent.
The men should ask for tutoring from the women’s team. The women Bruins have a 100 percent graduation rate.