Black NCAA players with Black head coaches more likely to graduate

Study shows that Black coaches in the NCAA graduate 84.5 percent of their student-athletes; a rate higher than their white counterparts

Black NCAA players who have Black head coaches fared better. For Black male players, the rate went up from 79 percent last year to 80 percent this year.

Lovie Smith
CHAMPAIGN, IL - SEPTEMBER 01: Head coach Lovie Smith talks with quarterback AJ Bush #1 of the Illinois Fighting Illini after the game against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Memorial Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Champaign, Illinois. The Illini defeated the Golden Flashes 31-24. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

The gap in graduation rates of Black and white NCAA Division I basketball players grew over the past year, according to a study of the male and female teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament had games not been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, Black NCAA players who have Black head coaches fared better.

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According to the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) study released by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida, the GSR for white NCAA male players increased from 91.6 percent in 2019 to 94.3 percent this year. For Black male players, the rate went up slightly from 79 percent last year to 80 percent this year.

Head coach Mike Anderson

COLUMBIA, MO – DECEMBER 08: Head coach Mike Anderson of the Missouri Tigers in action during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on December 8, 2010 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The overall graduation success rate gap between the two groups grew to 14.3 percentage points in 2020 from 12.6 last year.

Richard Lapchick, the director of TIDES, said he finds the results “disappointing.”

“This increase is disappointed following last year’s decrease, and thus shows the lack of improvement in minimizing the gap between the rates of white and African-American male basketball student-athletes,” Lapchick said in the study. “This is the first time since 2017 that there was an increase in the gap between graduation rates of white and African-American male basketball student-athletes.”

Patrick Ewing

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 05: NBA Hall of Famer and former Georgetown Hoyas player Patrick Ewing is introduced as the Georgetown Hoyas’ new head basketball coach John Thompson Jr. Athletic Center on April 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

“Over the years, this has been the most troubling statistic,” he added. “I hope to see nothing but decreases in the following years until we eliminate this gap between the two groups of student-athletes completely.”

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An interesting twist is that teams with Black head coaches had a higher graduation rate compared with Black players who played white coaches. There were 54 white coaches and 14 Black coaches and of the 14 teams that were headed up by Black coaches, they graduated 84.5 percent of their players compared with 82.3 percent graduation rates for teams headed up by white coaches.

James Franklin

PISCATAWAY, NJ – NOVEMBER 17: Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions runs onto the field with his team before taking on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

The report also analyzed white female NCAA basketball players, which had a GSR of 95.9 percent compared with 89.6 percent for Black female players – a 6.3 percent gap. That actually went down from last year’s 7.4 percent gap.