The graduation gap between white and Black football players on bowl-bound teams is increasing.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found that among the 56 teams playing in bowl games in this pandemic-affected season, white athletes graduate at a rate 16.3% higher than their Black teammates.
A similar study last year saw white athletes graduate at a rate of 15.6% higher than Black athletes.
“Generally, those numbers had been going up for any number of year,” study primary author Richard Lapchick said Tuesday. “The gap between Black and white student athletes had been narrowing, but this year it went up.”
Lapchick acknowledged the study was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Last year's report included 39 bowl games (78 teams) instead of 28 games in 2020. Lapchick, the institute's director at the University of Central Florida, said he was still adjusting data given Army's late inclusion to the Liberty Bowl after Tennessee opted out of the game.
"Unfortunately, the gap between white and Black football student-athletes continues to be a major issue," Lapchick said.
He noted in the study that one school surveyed, Louisiana Tech, graduated less than half of its Black football players, which was two fewer than in 2019. No team in the newest study graduated less than half of its white football players among those eligible to graduate, Lapchick said.
Overall, graduation rates for football players were down as well, the study found.
In 2019, bowl-bound teams graduated 79.1% of athletes. That fell to 78% this year.
“The academic success of FBS football student-athletes has declined this year,” Lapchick said.
Of the four teams in this year's College Football Playoff competing for the national championship, the survey found that Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame had strong academic standing “while Ohio State lagged behind,” Lapchick said.
Notre Dame graduated 91% of its football players, Alabama 88% and Clemson 83%. Ohio State graduated just 69% of its football players.
Among Black football players, Alabama graduated 84%, Notre Dame 82% and Clemson 77%. Ohio State graduated 60% of its Black players.
Alabama and Clemson graduated 100% of their white football players, Notre Dame 96% and Ohio State 90%.
Lapchick called the gap between white and Black football graduation rates at these schools “disturbing.”
Other things the study found were that while 54 of the 56 schools had graduation rates of 70% or higher for white players, only 36 programs had similar rates among Black players.
Wisconsin, Ball State and Northwestern were the only schools with higher graduation rates for Black players than white players.
Lapchick noted that football players at the schools studied were graduating at a higher rate than the overall college student body.