The Answer Sheet: Don't doubt the value of the college degree
Thank you, Terrapins Coach Gary Williams, for your college and career planning advice.
It certainly is original: Dropping out of college might not be so awful because people sometimes go on to make millions of dollars. Bill Gates, for one. Acton Mobile Industries chief executive Barry Gossett, for another. Even Dan Snyder.
Maybe college basketball coaches should stick to coaching basketball and leave the college counseling to people who know what they're talking about.
Williams reacted negatively to an annual study that showed the University of Maryland at College Park has the lowest graduation rate -- 8 percent -- among the 65 teams in this year's NCAA basketball tournament. The next lowest was California, at 20 percent. A few schools, including Brigham Young and Marquette, graduated all their players.
The study was conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. It uses data on graduation and academic progress rates that the teams and schools report to the NCAA and compares the academic performance of black and white basketball players.
This year's study looks at the classes that entered the schools from 1999 to 2002 and used a six-year graduation rate:
-- Eighty-four percent of white and 56 percent of African American men's Division I basketball student-athletes graduated, up six points for whites and two percentage points for African Americans over last year's results.
-- Forty-four teams, or 69 percent of the total, graduated at least 50 percent of their basketball players (up from 63 percent in 2009).
-- Thirty-seven teams graduated at least 60 percent, and 29 teams graduated at least 70 percent. Twelve teams graduated less than 40 percent. Among other schools in the tournament from the greater Washington region, Georgetown University had an 82 percent graduation rate; Morgan State University, 42 percent; Old Dominion University, 43 percent; University of Richmond; 85 percent.
Here's what Williams said:
"Obviously, those years we had players leave early and they're millionaires now, and they're coming back to get their degrees, just like other guys have come back and gotten their degrees. Plus we've graduated, let's see, I think it's 10 out of 12, and most recently of our seniors, we'll graduate all four of our seniors this year. Our academic support system has completely changed since 1999-2003."
Williams makes a legitimate point in saying that the university has come a long way academically since 1999. Indeed it has, and the school has a well-deserved academic reputation.
"This is wrong, to say that these people aren't successful," Williams continued. "Do you know Barry Gossett never graduated from the University of Maryland? . . . But nobody ever criticizes Barry Gossett because he gives $12 million or whatever for the football team house. . . . Dan Snyder dropped out of Maryland after his freshman year. It's just the way it works. Bill Gates never graduated from Harvard."
Coach Williams: Take a deep breath. If you're graduating most of your players now, great.
But, please, making money is not the only measure of success. Dropping out of college and making billions of dollars is not "the way it works" for anybody but Gates. Surely some of the players who graduated after getting an education went on to make some big bucks, too.
Staying in school, and graduating, and starting a career would be the best thing for every player on your team. Suggesting otherwise is harmful.