Matter of degrees? Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Myron P. Medcalf blistered the college basketball establishment last week for the academic achievement gap between white and black athletes. Is the question as straightforward as he portrays it?
NCAA tourney still about dollars and not degrees (Myron P. Medcalf, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Academic performance is at or near the top of the list of issues facing college sports. If student-athletes do not receive genuine educational opportunities, then college sports fails on its promise.
That said, the Medcalf article comes up short by focusing on a single statistic − the graduation gap between white and black Division I basketball players − without providing any significant additional context. He does not discuss that the percentage of African-American men’s basketball graduates has increased (33 percent in the 1999 federal graduation-rate report to 44 percent in the 2009 report), nor does he assess how black basketball players are doing relative to black students in the general student body (44 percent for basketball players compared to 38 percent for all).
It is true that the 20-percent graduation gap between white and black basketball players has remained the same over the last decade, but Medcalf’s criticism ignores the fact that rates for white basketball players have improved over the years in a parallel fashion. It’s hard to see how that can be regarded as a problem.
Finally, Medcalf suggests that the NCAA has been somehow exposed by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics and Sports. In fact, that organization has done little but repackage commonly available NCAA statistical data and then call it a “study.” In fact, the NCAA’s ability to quantify educational outcomes and then to model them in various scenarios has led to much of the progress that Medcalf ignored.
Tough duty. Two recent articles indicate the tenacity required to be a college sports critic.
Missouri professor Steve Weinberg said he will “probably die without seeing even a bit of meaningful reform” while Anderson (S.C.) Independent Mail columnist Scott Adamson said he “can live to be 100 and never be able to completely grasp the hypocrisy of the NCAA.”
From academics’ view, reform of college athletics will never work (Steve Weinberg, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Those NCAA presidents say the darndest things [Scott Adamson, Anderson (S.C.) Independent Mail]
Adamson’s quest has elements of “are-you-still-beating-your-wife?” to it, so I’m going to give the edge to Prof. Weinberg in the race to realize a life dream before time runs out.
Gender gap at the top. Libby Sander of the Chronicle of Higher Education recently detailed how only five of the 120 athletics directors in Division I’s Football Bowl Subdivision are women.
In the game, but rarely No. 1 (Chronicle of Higher Education)
“The scarcity raises a host of questions − with few clear answers − about a glass ceiling over college athletics,” Sander writes. “Are qualified women being overlooked because they lack connections in an old-boy network that some say still dictates many hiring decisions? Have they been passed over so many times that they’ve stopped trying, in some cases, choosing to leave the profession altogether? Or are they simply content, with all the pressures bearing down on the top person, to be No. 2?”
This piece is well-researched and recommended reading for all.
Bottom lines. Travis Mester of the Mitchell (S.D.) Daily Republic took a look Saturday at the finances of higher education institutions within the state.
Adding up the cost of college athletics [Mitchell (S.D.) Daily Republic]
The story contains a lot of information, although readers may get a little lost in the numbers.
What’s interesting, though, is how the story collects a range of thoughts from administrators at all different levels of competition. A couple of samples:
South Dakota AD David Sayler (Division I): “What athletics really does is bring people together. It gives alumni a chance to pound their chest, and when you play a team like Minnesota or Nebraska or Kansas or Kansas State, people just get excited. That’s why I would like to continue playing one game of that magnitude each year, and keep it within a close enough proximity that our fans can still attend …. If anything, the more successful those programs are, the better it is for your school. Our goals are to be as successful as possible in our revenue sports. All those things snowball down the line to the other programs.”
Northern State AD Bob Olson (Division II): “Truthfully, at the NCAA Division II level, you don’t really look at this program as making money and this program not making money. Very few if any athletic programs make money, but that’s not the reason you have them. Athletics are part of the educational system. Our labs are different from labs in the classroom, but they’re still labs that help students grow educationally.”
A taxing question. Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com described how some prominent football postseason bowls may be experiencing questions related to their tax status.
Thanks to critics, bowl system facing questions from the tax man (Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com)
It’s a little difficult to tell how much fire goes with the smoke. The complainant is an eccentric committee called “Playoff PAC,” which appears to be amateurish at times and conspiritorial at others. Sometimes, the two come together (Dodd noted a clumsy effort to slur BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock by calling him “Baghdad Bill” in a video). Dodd’s story notes how the BCS regards Playoff PAC as a nothing more than a nuisance.
Still, the overall issue is complicated and probably bears watching.