Losing to Win in College Sports

Photo of Professor Tim Davis

Professor Tim Davis is one the country’s best known sports law scholars.

At the height of March Madness, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan highlighted the true madness of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament: 10 of the 68 teams that competed are not on track to graduate half their players. Is it fair, he asked, to reward teams with millions of dollars for their athletic feats when their players lag so far behind academically?

While I agree wholeheartedly with Duncan’s call for raising the academic bar for post-season play, I think it is important to add another element to his call for action. We also need to take into account the growing disparity between black and white athletes, which is big and getting bigger.

According to a newly released study, 91 percent of white basketball players on 2011 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament Teams graduated last year, while only 59 percent of their black counterparts earned their college degree — a 32 percent gap. Furthermore, this is the third straight year the disparity has increased.

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