Diplomas for Athletes

'TIS the commencement season, and throughout the land jubilant college seniors are flipping the tassels of their mortarboards and displaying their newly earned diplomas. But for a group of their classmates, graduation day will hold no cause for rejoicing; many in the group, in fact, will have long since left campus. These are scholarship athletes, especially minority athletes who played football and basketball, the big-money sports. It's at least dubious that National Collegiate Athletic Association rules permit athletically talented youths to enter institutions of higher learning despite high-school records that betray little aptitude for academics. But truly shameful is the indifference to the fate of such athletes by many coaches and college administrators once the players' eligibility is used up. Still far from completing their credit requirements after four seasons on the field or the court, some athletes are allowed to slip quietly into academic oblivion.

To be fair, there are colleges and universities that don't neglect athletes who want a degree. They counsel and tutor the athletes, even after their playing days are over, and strive mightily to help them graduate. Wouldn't it be nice, if you were an 18-year-old sports star weighing scholarship offers, to know which schools will take your education to heart?

That's the purpose of legislation proposed by Sen. Bill Bradley (D) of New Jersey. The consumer-information bill would require all colleges and universities receiving federal funds to disclose the graduation rates of scholarship athletes by sport, race, and gender. The senator says he's astonished that the NCAA is resisting. He is?

Many schools understandably do not see it in their interest to make graduation rates public; it could only hurt recruiting.

Senator Bradley should summon up old instincts and drive for the hoop. Disclosure of graduation rates would be a useful first step toward the real solution, which is to have colleges get serious about seeing to it that their scholarship athletes are still around at the final buzzer.

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