The statistics are shocking! While the players in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) 2007 basketball tournament exhibit strong skills on the court, their academic performance is not quite of the same stellar quality. In fact, some of the sixty-five colleges in the NCAA tournament, including the University of Tennessee and the University of Maryland, graduated less than twenty percent of their players.
According to Jeffrey Brown in an Online Newshour Analysis, one of the most promising contenders, Ohio State, has only a thirty-eight percent rate of graduating its athletes. Studies also show that a much greater number of white athletes are graduating than their black colleagues in NCAA colleges, and this statistic is troubling. Some schools, on the other hand, are working hard toward academic excellence for their male basketball athletes. These include The College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts and the University of Florida, as well as Weber State University, which all had one hundred percent graduation rates for their male basketball athletes.
Charles Odum, of the Associated Press, writes that the University of Georgia’s desire to join the ranks of these outstanding universities has resulted in a surprising decision. On Wednesday, June 7, 2007, in an attempt to force student athletes to invest more in academic achievement, Damon Evans, the Georgia athletic director, announced the decision to fine athletes who have unexcused class absences. This policy had been temporarily introduced in January and had worked so well that it will now become a permanent part of Georgia’s athletic program. The college found that when athletes who missed classes without an excuse were fined either ten dollars or a game suspension, far fewer classes were dropped, and the number of earned credits increased dramatically. The money collected from the athletes will be donated to the United Way.
A study done by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in 2001 suggested that by the year 2007, any team that did not graduate at least half of its athletes should not be allowed to play in the NCAA tournament. This year that would have allowed the NCAA tournament to host only sixty-four percent of the teams who qualified, but that figure is up from the twenty-eight percent who would have qualified in 2001. Progress is slow, but with bold moves such as the one made by the University of Georgia this week, success will result, and NCAA althletes will be the winners.
Jeffrey Brown, “Colleges Need to Improve Academic Success of Athletes, Studies Show,” Online NewsHour: Analysis 30 March 2007, p.1.
Charles Odum, Associated Press Writer, “Absent Georgia Athletes Face Fines,”
The Decatur Daily (AL) 7 June 2007, C4.