Peter Schorsch: FSU must do more to help black football players graduate


 Florida State may be ranked No. 1 heading into the bowl championship with Auburn, but there’s one ranking for which the Seminoles trail far behind: the percent of black football players who will graduate from college within six years.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity analyzed each of the football teams participating in the 2014 Bowl Championship Series. They looked at completion rates across four cohorts of players, rather than focusing on a single year, and found that at least half of the black players won’t graduate within six years of enrolling.

Comparably, 67 percent of student-athletes across seven NCAA Division I sport conferences will graduate within six years. The undergraduate completion rate is 73 percent overall, while 56 percent for black undergraduates.

According to the university report, black men comprise 3 percent of undergraduate students but 60 percent of football players at the top 25 BCS schools.

Of the Bowl Championship teams, Stanford by far has the highest completion rate for black players — 82 percent. Coming in second is Alabama, with a 53 percent completion rate, followed by Auburn at 51 percent. Baylor and Ohio State each graduate 50 percent of black players, followed by Michigan State at 49, Clemson and UCF at 47 percent, and Oklahoma at 42 percent. Florida State comes in last at 37 percent.

In context, nearly 70 percent of the Seminole roster is black, and 90 percent of white players will complete their undergraduate degrees.

FSU president Eric Barron responded to the Penn report, writing that the six-year graduation rate for black football players who entered in 2006 is reported by the NCAA at 50 percent. The methodology for the NCAA percentage differs from the one Penn used, as it looks at a single year rather than four entering classes at a time.

“Nevertheless, that rate remains unacceptable, and that is why in recent years our university has taken aggressive steps to improve the academic success of our student-athletes,” Barron said.

Barron wrote that Florida State has been addressing what is a national concern by doubling the funding and size of academic support programs for student-athletes, assigning a top associate dean to oversee athlete advising, and charging then newly hired athletic director with making academic success a priority.

Players in Top 25 football programs are responsible for delivering huge sums of money to their schools and athletic programs. Yet schools have by and large failed to provide the resources needed to meet black student-athletes’ academic needs.

Before you assume that black male players aren’t graduating due to recruitment by the NFL, consider this: the NFL and NBA draft fewer than 2 percent of student-athletes each year.

This means that nearly all college athletes must move on to professional lives that do not involve athletics.

Progress is far from impossible. Just look at black women basketball players. Like their male counterparts, black women comprise the majority of college basketball programs. During the 2011-12 school year, black women comprised 3.7 percent of undergraduate enrollments at the 76 colleges and universities in the six NCAA division I conferences, but they represented 60 percent of the players on the women’s basketball teams at those schools.

In contrast to black male athletes, the female players had six-year graduation rates that exceeded those for white female athletes as well as for undergraduates as a whole at those colleges.

Coaches of male teams should take a lesson from female athletic programs. And just as they direct on-the-field play, coaches should be looking out for what’s best for their players in the long run. This means supporting them so that they finish what they came to college to start.

FSU quarterback Jameis Winston completed 68 percent of attempted passes in the 2013 season. If the team’s college completion rate were only that high, too.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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