SBD/October 26, 2011/Colleges

Latest GSR Shows NCAA Reaches Goal For Student-Athletes Graduation Rate

The latest Graduation Success Rate (GSR) released yesterday showed the NCAA has achieved its goal of seeing "eight of every 10 Division I student-athletes earn their degrees within six years", according to David Wharton of the L.A. TIMES. Eighty-two percent of student athletes "who entered college in 2004 have graduated on time, and the average of the last four graduating classes (2001-04) has reached an all-time high of 80%." NCAA President Mark Emmert said, "We're delighted that we're here." But Wharton notes at the same time, "football and men's basketball continue a trend of lagging behind, both falling short of a graduation rate of 70%." Univ. of Hartford President and NCAA Committee on Academic Performance Chair Walter Harrison said, "We need to improve those two sports" (L.A. TIMES, 10/26). USA TODAY's Steve Wieberg reports 15 of the 25 programs in this week's BCS rankings "fell beneath the football average" of 67% in the FBS. The NCAA is "set to impose" an APR qualifier of 930 for championship events beginning in the '12-13 academic year. The cutoff would "start lower, at 900, and move upward over four years." After saying at a Knight Commission meeting in DC Monday that the BOD "could choose to start the new standards this season, Emmert said that would not happen" (USA TODAY, 10/26).

QUESTIONS ABOUT GRANT INCREASES: With news that NCAA President Mark Emmert supports a plan to increase grants to student-athletes by $2,000 a year, Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne said that he “is concerned the proposal might not help all athletes equally if it only applies to athletes with scholarships, which is uncertain.” Byrne said that any such proposal “also must be examined within the context of other changes the NCAA is considering.” ESPN.com’s Kristi Dosh noted among the changes the NCAA is considering are “a 10 percent reduction in games in every sport and a reduction in football scholarships from 85 to 80 at the FBS level and from 63 to 60 at the FCS level.” Scholarship reductions “from 13 to 12 in men’s basketball and 15 to 13 in women’s basketball are also being considered” (ESPN.com, 10/25). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said he was okay with the $2,000 additional payments, but the players "should not be asking for more.” But ESPN.com's Bomani Jones is advocating for more, saying, "You're acting like these guys don’t generate more money than that or as though all of them can actually use the scholarship. You can’t eat a scholarship. You can only eat cash and $2,000 isn’t nearly enough” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/25).

PAY FOR PLAY: ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil noted "some 300 football and men's basketball players have signed a petition, telling the university presidents that they've read the bottom line and it's about time they got a cut." The petition specifically "asks that a portion of the piles of television revenue collected each year be set aside in an 'educational lockbox.'" O'Neil noted the NCAA reacted "as expected, insisting it already sets aside most of its money for its athletes -- 96 cents per dollar, according to NCAA spokesman Bob Williams -- failing to realize that paying for championships and paying into the student-athlete assistance fund isn't what these guys are talking about." O'Neil wrote, "Offering up the same old platitudes and trying to hoodwink athletes into believing that their scholarships are enough isn't going to work. A full ride shouldn't be [discounted] -- plenty of college students would trip over themselves to get a free education. But it is no longer an adequate answer" (ESPN.com, 10/25). In S.F., Gwen Knapp writes the problem with the concept “is that most Division I football and men’s basketball programs are not cash cows.” Knapp asks, “Would the athletes who signed the petition argue that any players whose teams lose money should be held responsible for the red ink?” If every Division I college “has to ante up more cash for its football and basketball players, regardless of their program’s profitability, much of the burden will fall on average students, who are already accruing absurd amounts of debt to pay for their education” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/26).

BETTER THAN THE AVERAGE STUDENT: The CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION's Libby Sander notes a study by the paper shows that Division I athletes “on the whole, appear to be better off financially speaking, than the general student body -- and financial-aid experts say that merit aid hardly ever covers the entire cost of college education.” Figures provided by the NCAA show that 16% of Division I athletes “received Pell Grants last year.” By contrast, nationally 30% of undergraduate students “at public and private four-year institutions received the federal grant for needy students last year” (CHRONICLE.com, 10/25).

OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE: In N.Y., Jorge Castillo notes the October issue of The Atlantic magazine featured a cover story by Taylor Branch titled "The Shame of College Sports" that focused on the NCAA, and the "thesis Branch presented was that the organization was little more than a sham, exploiting athletes in revenue sports like football and men’s basketball to make hundreds of millions of dollars while expounding the virtues of amateurism." Reaction to the story, both "positive and negatives, was swift." Branch said that retired college coaches "reached out to him to tell him that they agreed with the article's premise." The only previous experience Branch had "writing about sports came when he co-wrote the autobiography of the basketball great Bill Russell, 'Second Wind.'" In a statement, the NCAA said "after initially engaging with the NCAA roughly a year ago, Mr. Branch declined to respond to our many attempts to contact him and participate in his reporting" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26).
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