Claming “privacy,” some colleges no longer publish graduation rates for male basketball players. Rates for black athletes have disappeared from web sites too, writes Gregg Easterbrook.

As the NCAA basketball tournaments begin, you’ll hear endless stats about players’ heights, weights, shooting, assists and rebounding. What you won’t hear is whether they are graduating.

Graduation rates for NCAA scholarship athletes have been up somewhat recently–rising to 62 percent, better than the 60 percent when the organization began keeping statistics in 1984. Graduation rates for African American male basketball athletes are also rising–38 percent of the class that entered school in 1996 eventually walked to “Pomp and Circumstance,” versus 28 percent of the entering class of 1995. ThatÂ’s the good news. The bad news is that the NCAA has decided that in most cases, it will no longer reveal the male African American basketball graduation rates for specific universities.

Officially this is to “protect privacy,” since basketball scholarship holders are sufficiently few that you can sometimes figure out, from raw data, who it was that never graduated. Apparently NCAA scholarship athletes have a right to not get an education, and that right must be protected! But the real reason for the policy is to protect the NCAA and those many universities that exploit African American players for ticket sales, making no attempt to provide meaningful educations. Many of the schools are public universities that use public funds and have extremely elaborate disclosure rules on other aspects of race and education, but now keep secret the key information about race, education and athletics.

My alma mater, Stanford, willingly discloses graduation stats by race, because the numbers are so good.

About Joanne


  1. Congratulations on the success of your alma mater. Uh, How do they do that? Maybe some of the world famous Jim Harrick Jr. exams, perhaps.

    (just joking)

  2. Wait a minute!

    I am a graduate of the University of Illinois.

    Basketball is much too important to allow for the interference of academics. I’ve got to part company with you here.

    My only complaint is that the U of I doesn’t seem to be paying our basketball players enough. We’ve never won a national championship.

  3. Derrick Jackson in the Boston Globe does a column every year about student-athlete graduation rates. I checked the Globe’s website and found out he’s already written two pieces on this development:

    First piece

    Second piece

    The last line of the second one says a lot: “Thirteen of the 37 colleges that did not report black graduation rates in 2003 had a 2002 black rate of zero.”

  4. Mike McKeown says:

    The story my son tells me is that in the NCAA BBall tourney a few years back Stanford played a school with a 0% basketball graduation rate.

    The band heard of this minor academic problem and made plans to appear in caps and gowns for the game. Unfortunately, the NCAA found out, and the ever more humor deficient administration went along with the plan to ban the band if it did such an unfair thing.

    The band caved. Appearances were preserved.

  5. Oh oh! One of my pet peeves! College basketball and football are very corrupting forces. Unlike sports like baseball and hockey where either college or the minors can lead you to the majors, this is not true for basketball or football. It’s all about college prestige and alumni dollars. Basketball is particularly bad. I see even small colleges decide to move on up to the big time. It takes a lot fewer players, coaches, and dollars to get to the top. Just imagine what it can do for a school to get to the final 4! A school can make big bucks. Who cares if many of the athletes don’t really want to (or should) go to college. It’s tradition! (As long as the school plays the “game” and they talk a good “game”.) No wonder Harrick stayed a spell at the U. of Rhode Island where they are trying to do what UCONN has done. URI even has a new basketball arena (oops – Convocation Center).

  6. I have to say that the privacy argument holds water: the number of basketball players makes it easy to see who didn’t graduate, which is none of anyone’s business if it’s a regular college student.

    And I think this whole “problem” of graduation rates is not such a big deal: a transfer student (who may get a degree elsewhere) counts against the rate, as do those players who leave to play professionally. Why is this a bad thing? Is it always bad that someone makes money professionally doing something he loves rather than continue to do it for free?

    There’s also the little thing about blacks needing college educations more than whites. No one complains that Anna Kournikova went pro at 14 or whatever, but if it’s a black man then it’s a tragedy if he doesn’t want to work four years for free!

    (Yes, I know they get an education, but a pro career–even in a European league–pays more than the value of that education).

    Oh yeah, it’s a damn shame that Bill Gates guy dropped out early to try the big leagues. If only he would have stayed for four years….

  7. Yes, and Bill Gates is a standard representative of the average high school graduate…

  8. Jim Thomason says:

    “Yes, and Bill Gates is a standard representative of the average high school graduate…”

    Yes, and so is Kevin Garnett, Kwame Brown, LeBron James….

  9. I find the graduation rates that Duke, Notre Dame and Stanford put up for their athletes are great examples of sacrificing integrity for good public relations.

    Kids with 750 SATs play basketball at Duke and go to school with kids who average 1400. Despite the incredible distraction of a sport which takes up the time of a full time job with more pressure, they graduate all these kids in four years. No Way.

    The odds of a 750 SAT student legitimately completing a real academic course of study in four years while competing with 1400 SAT classmates at a highly competitive school like Duke are so low that it might happen once or twice a decade. It could be called a miracle.

    When these schools graduate 95% of these kids, you know that they have completely sacrificed their academic integrity. The kids are getting a diploma without really earning it so that the schools can get kudos from fools who don’t understand what is really going on.

    Think about it. Duke will often have four basketball signees with lower SATs than the state schools with whom they compete. The state schools have a 35% grad rate because these kids can’t do the work. But kids with lower SATs are supposedly doing the work at Duke.

  10. Bill Leonard says:

    This one can be argued pro and con all night (and perhaps it will) but my vote comes down with Stan. The real scandal is the way the NCAA provides a minor-league feeder system for pro football and to a large degree, for pro basketball (although there are basketball minor leagues, as well as the European leagues).

    There’s nothing wrong with not going to college if you don’t want to. The outrage comes with the “student athlete” sham in which those who otherwise wouldn’t be remotely qualified, somehow manage to stay around for four years of “eligibility” and sometimes even graduate. And this happens at the elite prestigious schools as well as the more commone universities and state colleges. I recall when Chuck Muncie, one of the great running backs in Cal football history, had to have someone assigned to him full-time just to make sure he made it to class most of the time.

  11. Guess which team sport members at what is also my alma mater (Stanford) a few years back had SAT scores that were the most below the average for the freshman class?

    Football? Nope. Basketball? In terms of what you probably meant, nope. It was women’s basketball.

  12. jeff wright says:

    I agree with Stan’s input regarding Notre Dame, that bastion of academic integrity. The Notre Dame football program has been a curiosity for many years and a lot of their players have been questionable. However, I’m not so sure about Stanford and Duke. I am an ACC guy—Maryland—and I seriously question the 750 SAT comment for Duke players. ACC players have traditionally been able to read and write English—with Duke being perhaps the best—and they have not ordinarily been real embarrassments to their schools.

    Here in the Bay Area, we get a lot of coverage of Stanford basketball. The players I’ve seen on TV interviews have been well-versed in the English language and very articulate. They do come across as college material, unlike what we often see from other programs.

    BTW, Number One Stanford fell today, losing to Alabama, a school where I suspect a review of grades, SATs and graduation rates would be very revealing.

  13. Bill Leonard says:

    Jeff, as it happened, I watched the Stanford-Alabama game today. Yup Stanford was whipped, and whipped by a frankly mediocre team.

    Conclusions: Alabama was the inferior team, and Stanford showed that for most of the second half, though not when it counted.

    However, ‘bama could do something Stanford’s well-spoken players apparently can’t: shoot free throws.

    And finally, I believe Stanford was grossly overrated all season. The Pac 10 is not the basketball conference some others are, and even though Stanford lost but one game, it won at least three others by last-minute lucky shots and similar heroics. Real powerhouses don’t routinely do that; they bury the opposition, and the weaker the opposition, the deeper they get buried.

    Ah, well. It’s only basketball ‘Course, I’m not a maker of wagers. Others may have more seriously-held opinions…:)

  14. Stanford basketball players who were freshmen from 1994 through 1997 averaged 1123 (link) on the SATs, compared to 968 for Duke players.

    On the other hand, I saw the Stanford-Alabama game. Pathetic.

  15. What I want to know is, how do college athletes that don’t become professional athletes get along after graduation.

    At my alma mater, we had a thing called a “Commerce” degree for our student athletes, which was widely recognized as a fraud.

  16. What I want to know is, how do college athletes that don’t become professional athletes get along after graduation.–Douglas

    They do about as well as those acting students who quit school early to follow their dream, and those computer programmers who follow their dreams, and those creative writing majors who pursue their writing, and those architecture students who quit to work for someone….

    Some flop on their asses. Some go back later. Some go on to astronomical success. College athletes probably don’t do so well, but nightclubs will always need bouncers.

  17. D. Cooper says:

    Nice call Jon, been thrown out by a few have you?

  18. Actually, no. I am not an out of control asshole with a big mouth. Some have even described me as respectful and polite.

  19. Five to ten years ago, the Charlotte Observer published the SATs of the basketball recruits in the ACC. Duke ranked last in the conference that year. State schools such as Clemson, Maryland, FSU, UNC and NC State require that athletes merely have the NCAA mandated minimums. NC State had a player under Jim Valvano who scored a 400 (worst possible score on the SAT).

    Don’t be fooled by a stat that purports to be an average of the freshmen players. Four scholarship players (heavily recruited HS all-americans) who average 800 and two walk-ons with 1400 each will produce a freshman class of players with an average SAT of 1000 (which is still 400 points lower than school average).

  20. All of these kids go to college with big dreams. If they don’t get an education (as opposed to a degree, which can be merely a piece of paper with nothing behind it), then they’re the ones who lose out.

    What happens to the large majority who don’t make it in professional sports? And what about those who do – what do they do when they get injured so badly they can’t play any more? Or what happens when they get too old to play?

    if they’re smart, they get an education and also invest a lot of those big bucks they get paid.

    If not, they blow it on parties and women and drugs and such, and then sponge off their friends and fans and make the rounds of the ‘used to be’ circuit…

  21. JimInNOVA says:

    I’d just like to comment that Penn State also puts the “student” in “student athlete.” They kept the players grades up by kicking their @$$ if anything slipped below a C. Some of the football players are dumb as a box of rocks, but I could say that about some of the frat boy ag majors too.