The 2012 Adjusted Graduation Gap Report for NCAA Division I men's and women's basketball, released Thursday by the College Sport Research Institute at the University of North Carolina, indicates the overall AGG between NCAA D-I men's basketball players and the general full-time male student body is once again sizable. And while the AGG for women is only half as large, the gap is roughly the same as last year and slightly larger than in 2010, the inaugural year of the study.
CSRI director Richard Southall developed the AGG to compare the graduation rates of athletes against those of other full-time students in the interest of painting a more accurate portrait of student-athlete academic advancement in the face of the NCAA's graduation success assessments, which factor in part-time members of the general student body.
The percentage of Division I men's basketball players who graduate is 20 points behind the full-time student body at large, according to the latest CSRI study. In major D-I conferences, the gap is 30.1 percentage points, varying less than 3 points since 2010. Women's basketball players, meanwhile, are graduating at a rate 9.2 percentage points behind their non-athlete cohorts, a percentage that has not varied more than half a point in the three years of the study.
The AGG in men's basketball is greater than the 17-point AGG uncovered in the CSRI's most recent Football Bowl Subdivision analysis, leading Southall and his colleagues to ponder the academic challenges unique to basketball players. "Could athletes' arduous practice and travel schedules impact their opportunity to study and graduate? It would not be surprising, since Division I basketball schedules are travel-intensive and often require extensive missed class time," Southall says.
Adds study co-author Mark Nagel, "The college basketball season stretches over two semesters, which is potentially problematic with regards to a basketball player obtaining a meaningful education and graduating at rates comparable to other full-time students. These athletes are asked to work extensively at their sport. In addition to the physical demands, the travel and missed class time that NCAA D-I basketball players - both men and women - must endure is bound to negatively affect many of the players' educational pursuits and their graduation rates."
The AGG results raise several questions for NCAA and university administrators, outlined in a CSRI press release: • Do these basketball entertainers, who work nights and weekends to fill arenas and attract media consumers, have the interest, abilities, and - most importantly - time to also be full-time college students? • Are these athletes afforded less of an educational opportunity than other full-time students? • What policy changes at the NCAA, conference or university level would help close these large and growing gaps?
"Multimillion-dollar television contracts, which form the backbone of this entertainment industry, are negotiated by networks, athletic departments and conferences with little or no regard for players' academic workloads. A player's opportunity to be educated is not a primary consideration for the other college sport stakeholders," Southall says. "Those responsible should advocate for meaningful and realistically enforceable policies to limit the time athletes are required to devote to their athletic avocation. Since athletes cannot negotiate the terms of their de facto employment, it is up to university administrators and faculty to advocate for such policies and their strong enforcement. If an education is the quid pro quo within the collegiate model, then any barriers that impede athletes' equal access to a meaningful education need to be addressed."