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Graduation rates for bowl-bound teams continue to rise

December 4, 2018

The overall graduation rates for athletes on bowl-bound FBS football programs continue to climb, though the disparity in the rates between white and African-American players widened slightly, according to a study released Monday.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics and Sport shows in its report that the overall football Graduation Success Rate, or GSR, is up to 79 percent, climbing from 77 percent in 2017.

The study found that white football players had a 90 percent graduation rate, while black players were at 73 percent. Both those numbers are up from 2017, when white players had an 87 percent rate and black players were at 71 percent, according to TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the primary author of the study.

"In a lot of ways it's continuing good news for college football," Lapchick said in a phone interview.

The 17 percent gap between white and black players was up slightly from 16 percent a year ago. Lapchick said the gap continues to be a major concern, but he is encouraged that the graduation rates for white and African-American football players continue to rise.

He said the disparity in graduation rates isn't a problem limited to college athletics and reflects wider trends in education. The study notes that the overall graduation rates for all African-American male students is 41 percent at Division I schools, compared to 66 percent for all white male students, citing numbers from the NCAA Education and Research Data.

"The system isn't just college athletics, it's very dependent on public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools especially in urban areas, which is where a lot of our student-athletes come from," Lapchick said. "They're underfunded, understaffed and under resourced in terms of the technology available."

The study found that the four teams competing in this year's College Football Playoff—Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma—all had "reasonable academic standing." Alabama's graduation rate was 84 percent, Clemson's 87 percent, Notre Dame's 95 percent and Oklahoma's 76 percent.

Some of the highest graduation rates in the study belonged to Duke, Stanford, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Utah. All seven programs had at least a 93 percent graduation rate, including at least an 87 percent mark for African-American players.

Lapchick said the slow climb in graduation success rates for bowl-bound programs continues a trend that's lasted a decade. Ten years ago, the graduation rate for white players was at 76 percent, compared to 59 percent for black players. Five years ago, the numbers were at 85 percent for white players and 67 percent for black players.

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