There’s a reason it’s called “March Madness.”
As the NCAA basketball tournaments tipped off, researchers at The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sports did a little research. They looked at the graduation rates of the 65 men’s and 64 women’s teams, utilizing a metric called the APR (Academic Progress Rate) which the NCAA uses to measure teams’ graduation performance. A perfect APR of 1000 equals a 100% graduation rate. If a team falls below a 925 APR – equivalent to 60% of their students graduating – they face the loss of some NCAA scholarships.
The researchers found that women hoopsters hit the books as well as they crash the boards. 57 of the 64 women’s teams in the tournament received a passing APR grade, and 19 programs have graduated 100% of their players. All of the #1 seeded teams have graduated 100% of their players, including Tennessee, which has famously graduated all of its players for years.
But among the men, not so much. Although all of the #1 seeded teams received a passing score – including Kansas, which scored a 1000 APR – 19 teams out of 65 received a failing grade. Of the Sweet 16 teams, 4 of them – Purdue, Kansas State, Ohio State and Tennessee – are facing NCAA sanctions for falling below 925.
Even more troubling is a 27-point discrepancy in graduation rates between whites (76%) and blacks (49%), a gap that is steadily growing. Five men’s teams in the tournament have graduated less than 20% of their recent black players, and two teams – Maryland and Cal – have graduated 0% of their recent black athletes.
Yesterday, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, got into the game. Noting that basketball is by far the lowest-performing NCAA sport, with 1 out of every 6 programs graduating less than 40% of their players, he is advocating making a 50% graduation rate a requirement for post-season play.
We thought that sounded good. We called Vegas, to place some money on the prospect of that happening. They laughed at us; no one takes bets on things with odds that long.