Auburn University’s football team won the national collegiate football championship, but the Tigers aren’t exactly champs when it comes to graduation rates.
According to the Academic Progress Rate, a four-year assessment by the NCAA of the movement toward graduation for a team’s players, Auburn has dropped from No. 4 to No. 85 among the120 major college football programs.
The drop was caused when Auburn closed academic loopholes that had allowed football players to pad their grade point averages and remain eligible to play by taking easy courses, according to a story in The New York Times.
In addition, a study of 2010-11 bowl-bound college teams conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida showed that Auburn has the highest disparity in graduation rates between white and black players of any major football team. White players graduate at the rate of 100 percent; black players 49 percent.
The University of Oregon, according to that study, graduates 76 percent of white players and 41 percent of its African-American players.
The study, released last month, showed that five of the bowl-bound schools had graduation success rates for African-American football student-athletes that exceeded their rates for white football student-athletes: Northwestern (one percentage point higher), Virginia Tech (three percentage points higher), Southern Mississippi (three percentage points higher), Notre Dame (four percentage points higher) and Troy (10 percentage points higher).
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been vocal about the importance of college sports teams maintaining high graduation rates.
In an interview on Monday with Washington Post reporters and editors, he repeated that position, saying teams that do not have a graduation rate of at least 40 percent should not be allowed to participate in post-season play. He added that any sanctions for wrongdoing brought by the NCAA on a particular program should also follow the coach under whom they occurred.