Sen. Slams NCAA in Report on Athlete Graduation Rates

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Senator Chris Murphy (D – Conn.) is again attacking the NCAA over its treatment of student-athletes, this time going so far as to say that the system is actually defrauding student-athletes of the value of a scholarship and college education.

“The lack of academic integrity across college sports may be the most insidious piece of a broken system,” Murphy wrote in the report that slams the deficient graduation rates of student-athletes as they compare to those of other students.

Murphy's latest claims come in a new report released Thursday, which follows another issued back in March, which called for paying college athletes, especially those in sports like football and basketball where their services generate millions of dollars for universities.

Murphy said that the NCAA rebutted his initial report by saying that student-athletes were being compensated through scholarships.

“The NCAA’s primary response to my first report was that students are compensated, in their opinion. They believe that scholarship is adequate compensation for all of the time students put in and all the money they make for the system,” Murphy told HuffPost. “But there are a lot of students who are in the big-time college programs where schools are treating them like commodities and not giving them the education that they deserve.” 

Murphy contends that the priorities for college athletes is on sports and not getting an education.

“You’re obligated at these big kinds of college sport programs to be an athlete first, second and third, and a student fourth,” Murphy said. “It’s a bit of a red herring for the NCAA to say that a scholarship is enough compensation when a lot of these kids aren’t graduating and many others aren’t getting an education that is commensurate to their peers’.” 

The NCAA pushes the message that most of its athletes graduate, celebrating an uptick in graduate rates among student-athletes with the message, “Most of our athletes go pro in something other than sports.” However, Murphy argues that the NCAA’s current metric for measuring graduation rates — Graduation Success Rate (GSR) — doesn’t offer the full picture because it credits them when an athlete transfers in good academic standing — but sometimes fails to track them to their next school.

Murphy’s report states that from 2006 to 2009 more than 23,000 athletes transferred while in good standing, meaning they were excluded from graduation rates.

“These athletes did not graduate, but the numbers account for them as if they did — painting an inflated picture of academic success,” the report says. 

The other component of Murphy’s argument is calling out the racial disparity in athlete graduation rates, as black male basketball and football player graduation rates are 22 percent and 35 percent lower, respectively, than those of the general student population. 

“Black athletes are graduating at abysmal rates compared to their peers. And when you layer upon the graduation rate injustice, the fact that none of these kids are getting compensated, and all the largely white adults surrounding them are, it’s a civil rights issue,” Murphy said. “The NCAA says, ‘Don’t worry about the fact that all the adults are getting rich and the kids aren’t because the kids are getting an education. So it’s not a civil rights issue because we’re giving these kids, many of those African American athletes, an education.’

“Well, in many cases you aren’t ... giving these kids an education, which just exacerbates the civil rights issue.”

While this most recent report was definitely aimed in part at the NCAA, Murphy characterized it as aimed at addressing the institutions themselves.

“The first report is about money, and schools can’t make the decisions by themselves to compensate kids. That’d be an NCAA decision,” Murphy said. “But every school can make the decision to get more serious about academics. Every school can look at the amount of time that their football athletes are spending on athletic activities versus school activities and shift that balance. I hope that this report, if it gets some attention, will cause some individual schools to take a look at their own policies.”

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