Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NCAA Dishes Latest Propaganda; IHE Swallows

On one hand I am quite happy. As a group, NCAA student-athletes continue to graduate at a rate of 64%, 2% better than the general student populations. On the other, it is disgraceful that the NCAA continues to utilize confected measures like the GSR, or 'Graduation Success Rates' to propagandize its success. Overall, the story is good, but this sort of Salt Bath Writing* serves another purpose - allowing the NCAA to ignore its areas of abject failure, since as graduation rates in Football and Men's Basketball which remain under 50%. What really makes my blood boil, however, is journalism on the latest data-manipulation efforts by the NCAA which reads like an NCAA press release. Such is the case with this article, published today at Inside Higher Ed:
Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, wants to cease the propagation of “the so-called ‘dumb jock’ myth,” as he puts it. Trumpeting new data showing that NCAA Division I athletes are graduating at the highest rates ever — even as players in high-profile sports such as baseball, football and men’s and women’s basketball continue to lag — Brand and other NCAA officials argue that recently adopted and stricter academic accountability rules are steadily sidelining old stereotypes.
How about someone from outside the NCAA? Did you bother to interview them? If so, why are they not quoted in the article?
The NCAA reports graduation rates for Division I athletes in two ways — the Department of Education-developed federal rate and an NCAA-developed “Graduation Success Rate.” The GSR, as it is called, was developed by the NCAA to assess long-term academic success at the request of many member colleges who found the federal graduation rates misleading. Unlike the federal figure, the GSR does not penalize institutions for departing transfers who leave in good academic standing; it also counts incoming transfer students and midyear enrollees.
Of course then. It must all be good. The dirty little secret is that the GSR "allows institutions to subtract student-athletes who leave their institutions prior to graduation as long as they would have been academically eligible to compete had they remained." In other words calling it a 'Graduation Success Rate' is Orwellian language at its best.
By counting these athletes, the GSR tracks about 28,000 more students than the 72,000 tracked by the federal graduation data. And since they take into account athletes who left their institutions in good standing, GSR percentages are higher than federal graduation rates in virtually all cases. Still, not all athletes who leave in good standing enter another institution. Todd Petr, NCAA managing director of research, said 90 percent of students in good standing who leave college transfer successfully to another institution.
Whoops, Todd let some of the fine print slip out. 90% 'Transfer Successfully', which does not, of course, mean that they graduate.
Both the federal and the NCAA metrics, however, determine their percentages based on the number of students who graduate within six years of entering college. . . .
Except that the GSR deliberately leaves some students out so the numbers can be inflated.
As the federal rate is the only method with which to compare athletes to other students — because no data comparable to the Graduation Success Rate exist — it shows that two percent more Division I athletes graduate in six years than the 62 percent national average for all students at Division I colleges and universities. . . .
At least the author of this article did not fall for comparing general student-body graduation rate with NCAA GSR data. That Apples to Oranges comparison is, of course, what the NCAA would like you to make.
“We are continuing to make progress on the aspirational goal, which I very much advocate, of an 80 percent GSR,” Brand said during a news conference in which he further detailed some of the statistical improvements in the seven years that the NCAA has used its own metric to determine graduation rates. “The ultimate success, though, is in the lives of the student-athletes themselves. Approximately 4,000 additional student-athletes graduated from college over the past six years because of these increased graduation rates and increased academic performance.” . . .
Myles Brand, why don't you make it an aspirational goal to achieve a graduation rate in all sports which is at least equal to the overall 62% graduation rate in the general student body? No need to answer. We know. That would undermine the revenue sports like Basketball and Football which ultimately pay your salary.

What all of this systematically ignores, however, are the immense advantages given to Student-Athletes. One wonders how well John and Jane Student would perform if they were given exclusive dorms, special refectories, access to free private tutoring, and were funneled into General Studies and Sports Management majors. A sight higher than 64% one would guess. Of course most student-athletes do not take those 'easy majors', but they are among the unfortunate friendly-fire casualties from the latest salvo of propaganda from the NCAA.

*See University Diaries for October 22, 2007

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