Student-athletes’ image a concern

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Colleges and universities are out to get rid of the stereotype of the “dumb jock” — students who play sports first and take care of academics on the side.
Schools are offering student-athletes more academic help than ever before, and college athletes have higher graduation rates than the general student population.
But there are still calls for changes, especially since one of the sports that brings colleges the most money — men’s basketball — usually has the lowest graduation rates of all college sports.
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, 58 percent of Division I athletes graduated in 1996, compared with 56 percent of the general study body.
“Sometimes I believe there has been a misconception that exists out there that the athletes are brought in just to be an athlete,” said Herb Deromedi, Central Michigan University’s athletic director.
But “there has been this emphasis that you’re not there just to be an athlete, but there to take that opportunity” to earn a college degree, he said.
Overall graduation rates for athletes are buoyed by female athletes and students in sports that do not generate money, such as rowing, tennis, golf and volleyball, the Detroit Free Press reported in Wednesday’s editions.
Rates for all athletes vary widely by gender, race and sport. Only 33 percent of black male athletes graduated in 1996, compared with 57 percent of white men. Women athletes are more likely to graduate then men: 68 percent of women athletes graduated after six years in 1996, compared with 54 percent of men.
All Big 10 universities have a study facility for athletes. Tutoring and academic counseling for student athletes has been an NCAA requirement since 1991.
Yet there are questions about whether colleges and universities, raking in millions of dollars each year from college sports, are doing enough.
National graduation rates for men’s basketball players are usually about 25 percent, the lowest of all college sports, said University of Michigan athletic director Tom Goss. Football is about 50 percent, “and that’s nothing to write home about,” he said.