Press Releases


December 9, 2013

Black Male Student-Athletes and the 2014 Bowl Championship Series

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Contact: Kat Stein, Exec. Director of Communications
katstein@gse.upenn.edu / (215) 898-9642


Will Black Bowl Players Be Academic Losers?

Philadelphia, PA, December 9, 2013 – Data released today from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education details the low graduation rates of Black male student-athletes on teams participating in the 2014 Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Based on six-year graduation rates at the 10 schools, at least half the Black players taking to the gridiron in a BCS game this year will not graduate. Teams playing in the five BCS Bowls were announced last night.

This year’s data (infographic available for download at www.gse.upenn.edu/equity/bcs) is focused on the top 25 BCS schools. The data also show that although Black men make up 60% of the top 25 BCS football teams, only 12% of coaches and athletic directors are Black.

“In some instances, at Florida State University, for example, Black men comprise nearly 70% of the football team, yet just over one-third of those Black male student-athletes will graduate,” said Dr. Shaun R. Harper, a professor in the Penn Graduate School of Education and the Center’s Executive Director. “These numbers are shameful. In my view, no team with rates this low for a population that comprises such a significant portion of the team should be allowed to play in any BCS Bowl. These schools and their athletic conferences must be held more accountable.”

This updated research on Black male student-athletes and racial inequities in college sports examines the poor performance of these colleges and universities in graduating their Black male athletes. Only 50% of Black male student-athletes graduate within six years from universities in the seven major NCAA Division I sports conferences, compared to 67% of student-athletes overall, 73% of undergraduate students overall, and 56% of Black undergraduate men overall. To download the original Harper, Williams, and Blackman report on Black male student-athletes, please visit www.gse.upenn.edu/equity/sports.

Bowl Breakdown of Black Male Student-Athlete Graduation Rates:

National Championship

  • Florida State: 37% [21% lower than student-athletes overall]
  • Auburn: 51% [8% lower than student-athletes overall]

Sugar Bowl

  • Alabama: 53% [15% lower than student-athletes overall]
  • Oklahoma: 42% [13% lower than student-athletes overall]

Orange Bowl

  • Clemson: 47% [20% lower than student-athletes overall]
  • Ohio State: 50% [25% lower than student-athletes overall]

Fiesta Bowl

  • Baylor: 50% [14% lower than student-athletes overall]
  • Central Florida: 47% [13% lower than student-athletes overall]

Rose Bowl

  • Michigan State: 49% [23% lower than student-athletes overall]
  • Stanford: 82% [11% lower than student-athletes overall]

The Harper, Williams, and Blackman report notes that problems as pervasive as the underrepresentation of Black men in the undergraduate student population at predominantly white colleges and universities, their overrepresentation on revenue-generating NCAA Division I sports teams, and their comparatively lower six-year graduation rates warrant a multidimensional response from various stakeholders.  The report authors offer numerous concrete strategies and recommendations for five groups: the NCAA and Sports Conference commissioners; college and university leaders; coaches and athletic departments; journalists and sports media, and Black male student-athletes and their families. 


About Penn GSE
Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge building as the University of Pennsylvania. Penn GSE has long been known for excellence in qualitative research, language and literacy studies, practitioner inquiry, and teacher education. Over the past 15 years, Penn GSE has also developed remarkable strengths in quantitative research, policy studies, evaluation, higher education, and psychology and human development. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit www.gse.upenn.edu.