A Bracket You Won't See Elsewhere

March 14, 2006

It’s tourney time. March Madness. The big dance. Thousands of college students will muster energy never before seen in lecture halls to cheer one of 65 college basketball teams to the national championship.

Television rights to the tournament account for 90 percent of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual revenue. 

A national outplacement consulting firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, estimates that businesses will lose $237 million a day as people follow the tournament during working hours.

What if that tidal wave of frenzied enthusiasm was directed at applauding the graduation rates of basketball players, rather than their tourney prowess? Inside Higher Ed invites readers to come down a different March Madness road. Next stop … the graduation zone. In our bracket (which we'd recommend rotating once you open it in Adobe Acrobat), teams advance based on their NCAA Graduation Success Rate, as compiled by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, at the University of Central Florida, which released its annual report on the academic performance of college sports teams on Sunday.

The institute found that 64 percent of the teams in the tournament graduated at least 50 percent of their basketball players according to the Graduation Success Rate, the NCAA's newly conceived accounting measure, and 36 percent of the teams graduated at least 70 percent of their players. Only 25 percent of the teams graduated fewer than 40 percent of their players. (The Graduation Success Rate differs from the widely used federal rate by excluding from the calculation athletes who leave the institution in good academic standing before graduating, and including those who transfer into the institution and graduate. As a result, the rates tend to be about 10 percent higher than the federal rate on average.)

The institute highlighted racial disparity as the most glaring problem. Sixty-six percent of the teams graduated at least 70 percent of their white players, while only 33 percent did the same with black players. Twenty-five tournament teams have at least a 30 percentage point gap between the graduation rates of white and black basketball players. (In a related development, the Center for American Progress's ThinkProgress.org site unveiled a campaign aimed at underscoring the academic failures of many big-time teams and pressuring the corporations that pour money into big-time programs to direct some of the money to recognize teams that perform well academically.)

Check out our unusual bracket, and on with the games.

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