The next few weeks will be dedicated to the American pastime of picking a bracket, watching hours-upon-hours of college basketball and then, perhaps, cashing in on bets placed on the abilities of high-salaried coaches and unsalaried student athletes.
Here’s something to ponder: How many of those players will leave the court with a college degree?
Each spring the University of Central Florida Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport analyzes NCAA academic statistics for the 68 schools that make it to the Big Dance. This year the institute found a slight improvement in the percentage of male basketball players who receive a degree within six years of starting college. For the latest cohort of players, 67 percent graduated, up from 66 percent last year. Eight of the schools saw 100 percent of their players graduate.
Researchers also found there is still an “enormous gap” between the graduation rates of white and African American players, and at more than half of the schools, that disparity was more than 30 percent.
The NCAA has been examining ways to hold schools more accountable for their players’ success off the court, and many top coaches now sign multi-year contracts that allow them to earn five-digit bonuses for the academic performance of their players.
For example, Virginia Commonwealth University Coach Shaka Smart is paid $4,000 for each player he recruits who graduates soon after no longer being eligible to play, and $2,000 for each player who graduates within a year of no longer being eligible to play, according to a contract signed in June 2011. Most recently, 67 percent of VCU players graduated within six years, less than the school’s overall athlete rate of 78 percent.
Last year’s national champion, the University of Connecticut, has the lowest rate in the group, with just one out of four players earning a degree within six years. For all U-Conn. student athletes, the graduation rate is 81 percent. U-Conn. officials explain basketball’s low rate by pointing out, among other things, that many of their players are recruited to play professional basketball before getting a degree.
Head coach Jim Calhoun’s contract, signed in May 2010, states that academics are an “important aspect of his responsibilities.” If the NCAA were to revoke scholarship funds from the university as a penalty for not meeting academic benchmarks, the contract requires Calhoun to donate $100,000 to a scholarship fund.
The First Four: Western Kentucky University (100 percent) beats Mississippi Valley State University (35 percent). Brigham Young University (100) beats Iona College (53). University of Vermont (86) beats Lamar University (65). University of South Florida (44) beats University of California, Berkeley (33).
Second Round (South): W. Kentucky (100) beats University of Kentucky (69). Iowa State University (45) beats U-Conn. (25). Wichita State University (92) beats VCU (67). Indiana University, Bloomington (47) beats New Mexico State University (28). University of Nevada, Las Vegas (67) beats University of Colorado, Boulder (43). Baylor University (56) beats South Dakota State University (50). University of Notre Dame (100) beats Xavier University (93). Duke University (100) beats Lehigh University (85).
Second Round (West): Long Island University - Brooklyn Campus (91) beats Michigan State University (82). Saint Louis University (67) beats University of Memphis (55). University of New Mexico (57) beats Long Beach State University (45). Davidson College (100) beats University of Louisville (56). Colorado State University (64) beats Murray State University (56). BYU (100) beats Marquette University (91). University of Virginia (50) beats University of Florida (38). University of Missouri, Columbia (67) beats Norfolk State University (43).
Second Round (East): University of North Carolina, Asheville (57) beats Syracuse University (54). Kansas State University (50) beats University of Southern Mississippi (42). Harvard University (100) beats Vanderbilt University (93). University of Montana (75) beats University of Wisconsin, Madison (50). University of Texas at Austin (67) beats University of Cincinnati (56). Florida State University (67) beats St. Bonaventure University (65). West Virginia University (83) beats Gonzaga University (73). Loyola University Maryland (92) beats Ohio State University (57).
Second Round (Midwest): University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (89) beats Vermont (86). Creighton University (100) beats University of Alabama (67). South Florida (44) beats Temple University (43). Ohio University (79) beats University of Michigan (45). North Carolina State University (80) beats San Diego State University (62). Belmont University (100) beats Georgetown University (70). St. Mary’s College of California (82) beats Purdue University (50). University of Kansas (91) beats University of Detroit Mercy (89).
Third Round (South): W. Kentucky (100) beats Iowa State (45). Wichita State (92) beats Indiana (47). UNLV (67) beats Baylor (56). Notre Dame (100) ties with Duke University (100) — so we then look at the schools’ graduation rates for all student athletes; Notre Dame wins with 99 percent, over Duke’s 97 percent.
Third Round (West): Long Island (91) beats Saint Louis (67). Davidson (100) beats New Mexico (57). BYU (100) beats Colorado State (64). Missouri (67) beats Virginia (50).
Third Round (East): UNC Asheville (57) beats Kansas State (50) . Harvard (100) beats Montana (75). Texas (67) ties with Florida State (67), in a rematch using student athlete graduation rates, Florida State (79) beats Texas (74). Loyola (92) beats West Virginia (83).
Third Round (Midwest): Creighton (100) beats North Carolina (89). Ohio (79) beats South Florida (44). Belmont (100) beats N. Carolina State (80). Kansas (91) beats St. Mary’s (82).
Sweet Sixteen: W. Kentucky (100) beats Wichita State (92). Notre Dame (100) beats UNLV (67). Davidson (100) beats Long Island (91). BYU (100) beats Missouri (67). Harvard (100) beats UNC Asheville (57). Loyola (92) beats Florida State (67). Creighton (100) beats Ohio (79). Belmont (100) beats Kansas (91).
Elite Eight: Nearly everyone has a 100-percent graduation rate for basketball players, so we will switch to rates for student athletes. Notre Dame (99) beats W. Kentucky (80). Davidson (97) beats BYU (76). Harvard (98) beats Loyola (96). Creighton (96) beats Belmont (91).
Final Four: Notre Dame (99) beats Davidson (97). Harvard (98) beats Creighton (96).
National Champion: Notre Dame.
For on-the-court March Madness coverage this month, check out the Post’s sports section and The Early Lead blog. For off-the-court coverage, keep reading Campus Overload or follow me on Facebook and Twitter. And check out these articles: