Doesn’t TNR have researchers?

The New Republic Online: Easterbrook

Football Boy claims that because the NCAA doesn’t post graduation information for Alabama men’s basketball that

hardly anybody who gets a men’s basketball scholarship to ‘Bama ever graduates, and by appearances the school’s trustees and administrators could not care less.

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried, meanwhile, says that

In the past four seasons, all four of his senior classes have left by either May or August of their senior year having earned their diploma, giving Gottfried a 100% success rate in graduating his seniors since 2000.

I realize Gottfried is only a basketball coach, and not a blogger for the New Republic, but he’s got some familiarity with the issue. It’s called research, Gregg.

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20 responses to “Doesn’t TNR have researchers?

  1. I’m all in favor of Easterbrook being slapped down. We had a women’s b-ball coach out here who just retired after about 17 years, with mostly winning teams and a few NIT appearances. His proudest achievement, he was asked? 100% graduation rate.

    There are still some good coaches out there; it’s always nice to know.

  2. Graduating 100% of your seniors is certainly a good thing, but it does not mean that the Tide graduate 100% of their scholarship atheletes; some may lose their scholarship or leave the school before their senior year. Do you have the full numbers for Alabama’s program?

    [I am not out to get 'Bama here, but the poor graduation rate in the 30-40% range generally refers to incoming freshman on scholarship.]

  3. Offhand, the only casualties I notice are the three players who left school early for the NBA. I don’t think you can blame Gottfried for that.

  4. But the story rings true and he was only using accepted forms in order to describe the underlying existential reality. The approach may be too Brooksian for you but I say Easterbrook is ready for the NYT op-ed page.

  5. Glad to hear that Alabama is the exception to the rule. Or can you name some other NCAA Division I schools with 100% graduation rates?

    Modern college athletics is an appealing, watered down form of chattel slavery. The fact that athletes are treated well doesn’t diminish the fact that up until recently they were not allowed to exercise their rights to sell their talents on the free market, and still face ridiculous restrictions in that regard.

    Either you believe in a free market, or you don’t. Modern college athletics resembles socialism more than it does free market capitalism. College men’s basketball and football programs are cash cows for everyone except the athletes, who, instead of being paid cash money, are paid with university chits, aka college credits. It’s not the worst deal in the world, but it’s a long ways from being fair.

  6. The WaPo and International Herald Trib both did stories about the graduation rates of the teams in the Sweet 16, and found that only Kansas, Xavier, Duke, and Vanderbilt had graduation rates over 50%, so Easterbrook is not completely off base here, although given his love of statistical analysis I thought he might mention some extenuating circumstances.

    The WaPo mentioned the fact that the graduation rate for all students at Division I schools is 57%, and the graduation rate for the players on Division I basketball teams is 42%. In that light the rates don’t seem very surprising to me considering the fact that many players who end up getting hurt or ride the bench don’t have a lot of motivation to stay in school.

    There are only about 13 spots on the roster, not including redshirts and injured players (I confess that I don’t really know the total number of players in the program). If you apply the grad rate for all students (57%), you can figure that 5 or 6 of them won’t graduate. It just isn’t that shocking or disturbing to me that 1 or 2 more (which would get you to the 42% range) will leave school early due to a lack of playing time, inablility to continue living on the scholarship stipends (which are not that much), or in the case of the very lucky few the promise of NBA contracts.

    Long story short, I think that Easterbrook could have put some easily available numbers in there and come up w/ a much more insightful post, but to use a fact like a 100% senior graduation rate is equally disingenuous. If you recruit 5 players a year, and only one of them stays in school through his senior year and graduates, then you have a grad rate of 20%. (I realize that he is pictured w/ at least 2 players in each photo on his site, these numbers are an example.)

  7. Mark, another Division I NCAA team with high graduation rates is Stanford. This August 2003 article (http://stanford.theinsiders.com/2/164173.html) gives them a 100% graduation rate.

    I know they’ve had issues with people taking off early for the NBA, but they’ve certainly had high graduation rates for a while.

  8. Josh, the modern scholarship limit for players in Div. I men’s basketball is 13. Most teams have a walk-on or two around, but many don’t even keep 13 scholarship players, though Gottfried generally has.

    My recollection is that Gottfried has had a number of players he’s offered scholarships who were academic casualties before they ever made it to the school. But of the players he’s actually had, only three early entries and one transfer didn’t make it to their senior year. On the other hand, he’s only been around for five years now, and the regrettable David Hobbs era might bring down the average.

    I think seniors graduating is the appropriate standard, anyway. If a guy has a shot at the NBA and leaves, I don’t think you can blame the coach for that. You’d have to have a pretty mystical POV as to the value of a college education for it to outweigh a million dollars at age 20. The complaint about college athletics has always been that it exploits student athletes while not educating them, the examples being guys who were there four or five years and didn’t go to class. If you stay five years, you should get a degree, and these guys are doing that.

  9. James E. Powell

    If the calculation is going to be students awarded scholarships who eventually graduate then that graduation rate, and the total years taken to graduate, needs to be compared with the graduation rate of the whole student body. There are any number of reasons that entering freshman do not get a degree or do not get a degree in four or five years, or do not get a degree from the first college they attend.

  10. Sherpa Josh said:
    “The WaPo mentioned the fact that the graduation rate for all students at Division I schools is 57%, and the graduation rate for the players on Division I basketball teams is 42%.

    …There are only about 13 spots on the roster, not including redshirts and injured players (I confess that I don’t really know the total number of players in the program). If you apply the grad rate for all students (57%), you can figure that 5 or 6 of them won’t graduate. It just isn’t that shocking or disturbing to me that 1 or 2 more (which would get you to the 42% range) will leave school early…”

    I say:
    Josh provides an entirely sensible analysis that makes both Easterbrook and the NCAA look bad.

    Easterbrook because he didn’t do his homework. NCAA because they seem to be perpetuating a stereotype of accomodating place-holder athletes to boost ticket sales and alumni contributions.

    If, for instance, Alabama’s basketball scholarship graduation rate is 100% (quite a bit higher than the overall ‘Bama scholarship-athlete average) why black it out when it makes you look foolish? (And only black out men’s basketball and not other sports like football, women’s basketball, track and field, etc?)

    Well, let’s see if we can find out.

    Digging around in the data Easterbrook seems to have used (http://www.ncaa.org/grad_rates/) I found one hint — the Department of Education evidently requires institutions to suppress graduation figures for all programs where either there are fewer than three students receiving scholarships or where fewer than three students in the program graduate.

    The site has a link to a press release stating that the NCAA objects to this regulation and is seeking ways to work around it.

    “[NCAA President Myles] Brand said that the DOE decision tends inadvertently to assist those programs that would prefer to remain in the shadows. For example, it is impossible to tell from the data published this year that four institutions selected to the 2004 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship had graduation rates of zero, and 16 had rates of 25 percent or less.”

    So. It sounds like Easterbrook went off roughly half-cocked. According to the NCAA President, a significant fraction of championship teams have graduation rates below 25% so Easterbrook has a point — schools like Stanford and (if Gotfried is to be believed) Alabama are exceptions to an otherwise disgraceful situation.

    On the other hand the DOE appears to be responsible for the omissions, a fact that’s easily discoverable on the NCAA’s graduation statistics page (http://www.ncaa.org/grad_rates/ if you’re curious). One wonders how Easterbrook could have missed *that?*

    David Innes

  11. Pingback: Kalblog

  12. James Roberts

    “For example, it is impossible to tell from the data published this year that four institutions selected to the 2004 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship had graduation rates of zero, and 16 had rates of 25 percent or less.”

    So. It sounds like Easterbrook went off roughly half-cocked. According to the NCAA President, a significant fraction of championship teams have graduation rates below 25% so Easterbrook has a point — schools like Stanford and (if Gotfried is to be believed) Alabama are exceptions to an otherwise disgraceful situation.(/i)

    Actually, considering that 65 teams get into the NCAA tournament, having 20 teams with disgraceful graduation rates hardly proves a rule.

    And when you consider the hundreds of teams that don’t qualify for the tournament each year with near-100% graduation rates, these 20 teams would appear to be the exceptions.

  13. UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, TUSCALOOSA

    FRESHMAN-COHORT GRADUATION RATES All Students Student-Athletes
    1996-97 Graduation Rate 63% 54%
    Four-Class Average 59% 60%

  14. STANFORD UNIVERSITY
    FRESHMAN-COHORT GRADUATION RATES
    All Students / Student-Athletes
    1996-97 Graduation Rate 93% / 84%
    Four-Class Average 92% / 87%

    Stanford

  15. Even state schools/football and basketball factories can do well…

    UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON
    FRESHMAN-COHORT GRADUATION RATES
    All Students / Student-Athletes
    1996-97 Graduation Rate 75% / 88%
    Four-Class Average 75% / 68%

    The Power of Cheese

  16. “If a guy has a shot at the NBA and leaves, I don’t think you can blame the coach for that. You’d have to have a pretty mystical POV as to the value of a college education for it to outweigh a million dollars at age 20.”

    The view that very few people entering the NBA can make a career out of it?

  17. Jason, a first-round NBA pick gets a guaranteed four-year contract; I believe the lowest number is slightly more than a million dollars a year. Even if the career doesn’t work out, four million dollars is a pretty good start on life.

    Of course, two of the three early entries didn’t get drafted in the first round, but Gottfried tried to talk both into staying.

  18. I have to go with Mac on this. I used to be more puritanical in my viewpoint but let’s face it, Basketball and Football players are mostly there trying to make it to the NBA & NFL & get a million dollars. Most of these kids come from very poor upbringings and understandably would want that million at age 20 over a college degree. If I wasn’t 5’9 & Jewish and had better athleticism, I would want to go for a million dollars too.

    The point is, what Gottfried has done should be commended. He is one of the more talented and respected coaches in America and has really done some great things with this program, constantly living under the good (or bad in recent years) shadow of football.

    Of course, another interesting trend in basketball is that the REALLY talented players with real NBA potential of course go as high schoolers or after their freshman year to the NBA. Nowadays, if a kid is at a major program and he;s already a Sophomore, he’s now about 80% or more likely to stay 4 years because (sadly) his best shot at the NBA has passed him by. There are rare exceptions every year.

    This year, you have players like Emeka Okefur & Jameer Nelson but even Nelson is a bit short for the NBA and may have come out sooner if he was taller. Just my thoughts but these days, it maybe easier to have several 3 or 4 year players because if they are still in college by their sophomore year, they are 80-90% likely to have been phased out of the first round of the NBA, particularly because of the influx of foreign players, much more so then high school kids.

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