Writing at The Wall Street Journal, Mark Yosts calls attention to the fact that Catholic schools do a better job of graduating student athletes. His article features programs at Xavier, LaSalle, and Holy Cross.
Here is a taste:
I’ve written much on these pages about the often problematic nexus of collegiate academics and athletics. Over the years, I’ve pilloried Kentucky and Memphis and their 30% graduation rates. By contrast, I’ve held up Catholic colleges like Notre Dame—one of the few schools where athletes have a higher graduation rate than the general student body—as examples of schools that refuse to accept academically unqualified students simply because they have good jump shots.
My faith was shaken earlier this year when the New York Times interviewed Sister Rose Ann Fleming. She’s the feisty 5- foot-4-inch, 78-year-old nun who makes sure that the basketball players at Xavier University, a Jesuit Catholic college in Cincinnati, spend as much time in class as they do in the gym. Terrell Holloway, a sophomore guard at Xavier, praised Sister Rose in the Times article for keeping on him when he fell behind in a reading class during summer school.
Reading? Summer school?
It forced me to ask myself: Are the Catholic schools, after all, the same as Michigan or Temple when it comes to what kind of athletes they admit? The short answer seems to be yes. The critical difference is that schools like Xavier are making sure that their players receive diplomas.
Xavier’s graduation rate for its men’s basketball team is 82%, compared with an NCAA average of about 60%. And, on average, the graduation rate of athletes at Catholic schools is higher than at their secular counterparts.
“They may have been attracted to Xavier by a coach,” Sister Rose told me, “but from the very start we make it fundamentally clear to them that they are here to receive an education.”
She admitted that Xavier does accept students who don’t meet its minimum standards in terms of grades or test scores, but pointed out that not all of them are athletes. All come recommended by a guidance counselor, teacher or mentor as a kid who “deserves a break.”
“We place a great deal of emphasis on educating the individual,” she said. “That’s very much a Christian ideal.” For those kids who deserve a break, Xavier has a special freshman curriculum that restricts them to 12 credit hours in core courses such as math and English. There’s also a 13th credit hour they can take that teaches study skills, writing and note-taking.
To be sure, many universities have athlete tutoring centers. These million-dollar facilities are part of the façade that these kids are students first and athletes second. The difference is that many Catholic schools seem to actually try to make it the reality….
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