The Real Madness

Graduation rates among male college basketball players are too low

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has seen its share of upsets in the first weekend, but the real “madness” does not happen on the court.

The graduation rate of male college basketball players is one of the worst in the nation among college athletics. The University of Maryland graduates only eight percent of its men’s basketball athletes within six years of admittance. Statistically, only one of the Terrapins’ 13 basketball players on the 2009-10 team will graduate.

The National Basketball Association is in part to blame for the low graduation rates because it requires athletes to be 19-years-old and be only one year removed from high school. Other professional sports organizations have higher standards and much better development systems for players. The NFL requires athletes to be at least three years removed from high school.

Every basketball player good enough to make the jump from high school to the NBA attends college for one year and then turns pro. Many college basketball players develop quickly and leave college after two or three seasons. Take a look at the rosters of the teams in the NCAA Tournament and you will see that the number of athletes on the team classified as senior students is disproportionally small compared to the other classes.

I understand the best players in the country will turn pro after one year, but not many schools have multiple players entering the NBA draft every year. Less than one percent of NCAA Division I college basketball players will play in the NBA.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress last week that he wants a new rule requiring universities to have a minimum 40 percent graduation rate for basketball players in order to be eligible for post-season tournaments.

I completely support this movement and I would even be in favor of a 50 percent standard. Secondary education is vital to a person’s success and attending school without graduating with a degree seems futile. A person can learn valuable information in college that he or she can use in everyday life, and getting a job without a degree can be extremely challenging.

I understand some students, athletes and non-athletes as well, decide to leave college for personal reasons or simply do not enjoy school. I do not blame the college or university at all if a student leaves for these reasons. In the case of many college athletes though, these circumstances do not usually apply.

Athletes leaving college early can have a negative impact on the college or university as well. If a student takes classes for one year only because he or she is required to and the full scholarship they have is worth $25,000, the university is essentially giving away money because the student will not graduate.

College athletics should not be given higher priority than a student’s education. It is ultimately the students’ decision whether or not to leave before graduation, but colleges need to be more responsible about encouraging students to put their education first. n