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Black, White Academic Gap Widens in College Football

Andy Berg

The academic gap between white and Black college football players continues to grow, according to the annual report card from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

As the COVID-19 pandemic forced remote learning solutions for most schools, college athlete academic performance suffered, widening the existing gap in academic performance between black and white college football players at “bowl-bound” schools.

“The academic success of FBS football student-athletes has declined this year. The overall football student-athlete Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for bowl-bound teams is 78.0 percent, a decrease from 79.1 percent in 2019,” said Richard Lapchick, director of TIDES and the primary author of the study.

Lapchick added, “One positive trend did continue in 2020. Every school participating in a bowl game had at least a 50 percent GSR for their football teams for the third time in four years. Notably, every bowl-bound football team in 2020 had a GSR of at least 60 percent.”

Unfortunately, the gap between white and Black football student-athletes continues to be a major issue.

“The gap this year is 16.3 percent, up from 15.6 percent last year,” Lapchick said in a summary of the report. “Among the 56 bowl-bound teams, the average GSR for Black student-athletes is 73.4 percent, down slightly from 73.8 percent in 2019. The average GSR for white football student-athletes is 89.7 percent, up from 89.4 percent in 2019. One team graduated less than half of their Black football student-athletes, which is two less than in 2019. No team graduated less than half of its white football student-athletes.

“It must be emphasized that Black and white football players graduate at a higher rate than their male non-athletic peers in the student body within D1 schools. The graduation rate for Black male students as a whole is only 42 percent, in comparison to the 67 percent graduation rate for white male students, according to the NCAA Education and Research Data. That 25 percent gap for the general student population remains totally unacceptable for education in America. The problem goes back to the academic preparation some students get from elementary school through high school.”

The University of Alabama, Clemson University, The Ohio State University, and the University of Notre Dame competed in the College Football Playoff for the National Championship. Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame had very strong academic standing while Ohio State lagged behind.

The four schools graduated 88 percent, 83 percent, 69 percent, and 91 percent of all their football student-athletes, respectively. As for their Black student-athletes, they graduated 84 percent, 77 percent, 60 percent, and 82 percent, respectively. Their white football student-athletes graduated at rates of 100 percent, 100 percent, 90 percent, and 96 percent, respectively.

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