The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that some of college football’s brightest stars would no longer be eligible for Saturday’s National Football League Draft.
The players, namely Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett and Southern California’s Mike Williams, put ball before books when a lower court ruled against the NFL’s longstanding rule that a player must be at least three years removed from their high school graduation in order to be drafted.
But little to no attention has been paid to these athletes’ primary occupation- being a student.
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, black athletes are less likely to graduate within six years regardless of gender than their white counterparts.
The association reported that only 48 percent of the black student-athletes participating at the NCAA Division I level who enrolled as freshmen in the 1995-1996 school year graduated within six years. However, 65 percent their fellow white student athletes graduated during the same time period.
However, the graduation rate among student-athletes for blacks in Division I is higher than the 41 percent rate of the general student population.
Such is the case at FAMU, whose general student population graduation rate is 45 percent, compared to the University’s student-athlete graduation rate of 53 percent.
“That is something that we use as part of our sales pitch during recruiting,” said head football coach Billy Joe.
“Most of the time parents are more concerned with a school’s academic reputation than the youngster is.”
Other factors also affect the student-athlete graduation rate.
“Athletes who quit their sport or who quit school are (also) figured into the athletic graduation rate,” said assistant athletic director for NCAA compliance Jonathan Evans.
“Transfer students and how many hours and credits they have when they enter the University are also calculated into the graduation rate.”
FAMU’s athletic program has a policy to make sure that its athletes produce off the field.
Rattler student-athletes are required to attend study hall six to eight hours a week as freshmen.
Yet, if they obtain a grade point average of 2.5 or higher during their first year, they are no longer required to attend study hall at the Athletic Academic Learning Center.
“I don’t know any athlete who looks forward to going to study,” said senior linebacker on the Rattler football team Chris Gilchrist.
“But it is beneficial. I get something out of it.”
Gilchrist, a criminal justice student from Atlanta, said the Center is utilized for more than just tutoring.
Student-athletes go to the center throughout their college careers for guidance.
“If you need help, they find a way to provide it for you,” Gilchrist said.
“We also can keep track of where we are, get our schedules looked over after we get advised and register here”.
FAMU’s student-athlete graduation rate is the highest in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Joe credits this success with the athletic program’s ability to recruit athletes who are not only gifted athletically but academically as well.
“You have to look at a player’s academic prowess first, because they must pass the NCAA Clearinghouse.” Billy Joe said.
“If he doesn’t pass the Clearinghouse, I don’t care how good he is.”
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