The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Florida State University's athletic department may be having a tough time getting degrees in athletes' hands. According to the Sentinel, the pride of Tallahassee is among the 4 worst schools in the 12-school ACC for graduating its athletes; however, it's not as bad as it sounds on the surface:
The more important stat (in the NCAA’s eyes), the graduation success rate (GSR) — which accounts for student-athletes who transfer in and out — showed FSU student-athletes graduating at a 79 percent clip. That 79 percent hasn’t changed since 2001, and continues to be FSU’s highest GSR since the figure began getting tracked in 1998.
In general, obtaining a college degree is -- pardon the expression -- no slam dunk. And each school, with different sizes, entrance procedures, and academic cultures, has a different success rate among its students. The GSR statistic is designed account for that fact.
In other words, the average, non-athlete at FSU graduated just 74% of the time and the average student athlete graduated 58% of the time, but the student-athlete GSR is 79%, accounting for the difficulty of the school and the incidents of student transfers.
However, with NCAA's website offering publicly available data on GSR we can find some disturbing trends:
- FSU's football team -- by far their largest sport in terms of number of students as well as on-field success and popularity -- has a GSR of 56%.
Football teams don't typically graduate well, so this is not a terribly surprising number, but it is distressing considering the lifetime of injuries the average college football player earns. Compounded with the absence of a degree and little to no chance at entering the NFL (very few college athletes turn pro), it makes life appear rather bleak for college football players.
- The most distressing statistic: The massive ethnic and gender-based gaps in the GSR.
- Black males in the 2004-2005 freshman class had a GSR of only 46%, whereas white males had a 92% GSR.
- Men overall from that class had a 72% GSR while women had an impressive 89% GSR.
It's hard to speculate what causes these immense disparities without further research, but one must imagine the unemployment rate -- which nearly mirrors these numbers -- may play a role. It cannot be easy to pay for college when the unemployment rate for black men in the country is over 18% (compared to about 8% for white males).