By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
In a recent study of graduation rates among the colleges and universities that participated in the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Philadelphia’s Temple University men’s basketball team was cited as a school having a graduation rate at below 50 percent.
The study, which was conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, showed that Temple’s men’s basketball team has a graduation rate of 33 percent. The report also found that Temple graduated only 30 percent of its Black athletes from the men’s basketball program. Graduation rates for the student athletes in the rest of the sports the school participates in is 76 percent.
The graduation rates, which were released in March, are calculated within a six-year window from the 2003-2004 academic year to the 2009-2010 school year.
“Graduation rates are a snapshot of teams that are no longer playing at the individual universities,” said Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. “We take four entering classes and average them over a period of six years. They would have all have graduated and left school prior to that.”
Another measure the NCAA uses to measure athletes performance in the classroom in real time is the Academic Progress Rate, which looks at student academic eligibility. With the highest score being 1,000, Temple scored a 934. Any score below 925, could cost a team 10 percent of its scholarships. A score of 900 is equivalent to a university athletic team having a 45 percent graduation according the NCAA.
“The APR rates are a better picture of the current situation at an individual university because it’s a measure of real-time student athletes on campus on a particular team,” Lapchick said. “I think they are more accurate if you’re trying to get a look at what’s going now with a particular university.”
Former Owls head coach John Chaney said graduation rates don’t take into consideration players who leave early and turn pro who eventually come back after about seven or eight years degrees.
“The graduation rates should be updated to the point to include guys who go back to school, like a Michael Jordan, who went back to school eight or nine years of playing pro ball,” Chaney said.
“It should be updated. They may not put them on a list. There should be an asterisk and put those names on a separate list to show that they came in a class that graduated seven out of 15 guys in four years, but the other eight graduated in five, six or seven years later. That is a part that’s necessary to make sure that they don’t put out that they don’t put out information which is deleterious to an institution.”
Current Temple head coach Fran Dunphy began coaching at the school in 2006 and said those statistics are old and not reflective of the current program or any lack of commitment to academics on his part.
“It’s a little bit altered representation of what Temple is all about and I think that the same situation is also true of every coach that’s been here at Temple that’s tried to do their best to get these young men graduated on time with their degree,” Dunphy said. “These are numbers that we appreciate but don’t have a lot to do with where we are now and what Temple is doing for these young men as we speak.”
Dunphy also said those numbers aren’t reflective of his predecessor, who was known during his coaching career as someone who had no tolerance for his players not doing well in the classroom. He said Chaney cared about his kids off the court as well as off the court.
“I’m looking around for someone who was more supportive of student athletes than John Chaney in his tenure at Temple and I can’t find him,” Dunphy said. “No one worked harder. No one wanted more for these guys than John did.”
The numbers take into account such things as transfers and players who leave the program. According to the NCAA, if a student/athlete transfers it doesn’t count toward an institution’s graduation unless the student is ineligible at the time that student leaves the program or transfers.
“I’ve had two kids at one time transfer to another school and they’re also not included if they graduate from another school,” Chaney said. “I had one who went to Cheyney and he got his degree, but that’s not included in the graduation rate. That was a promise you made when you brought him in. That’s a lost group of young people that should be taken into consideration. It’s not hard to get that information. That story is never told.”
Dunphy said he makes sure that his players are attending class on a regular basis and will sit down to talk with them if they are not or if they are struggling with their classes.
“If we don’t see things going in the right direction, we’ll sit a young man down and say to him you need to do better than you are and so maybe you don’t come to practice today and you back to study hall,” Dunphy said. “As a result, they know what they’re needs are academically. I’m not asking these guys to be 4.0 students every semester, but I’ m asking them to be the best they can be and put the requisite time in. Temple is doing everything they can to ensure these guys have academic success and being available for them every time they get a chance. I feel good about where Temple is at this point.”
Nationally, the gap between African American student athletes and white student athletes in terms of graduation from teams that participated in the 2011 NCAA Tournament has grown to 32 percent according to the Center for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. On the other hand, the number of African American athletes graduating from the schools that participated in the tournament has gone up.