A computer analysis of the biographical records of 1,542 professional athletes on the rosters of the NFL’s 28 teams at the start of 1985 training camps reveals that only 41% graduated from the colleges they attended. This study also shows that 33% of the league’s black players completed degrees.
The graduation rate of the current class of professional football players offers a look at the respective successes and failures of the American post-secondary school system as it educates many of the country’s most avidly recruited athletes.
On average, the Times Herald analysis shows, NFL athletes graduated at a rate 10 to 30 percentage points below the graduation rate for American college students at large, even though many of the players were on full athletic scholarships throughout their college careers.
The low graduation rate for blacks is particularly daunting for educators, who say that it hints at the continued failure of the American secondary and post-secondary school system to equally educate members of all races. Black athletes in the NFL graduated at a rate 20% to 40% below the national student average.
I hope your figure is right, but I’m afraid the information you’re getting is when a player sits down with the team’s P.R. department and fills out a survey,” observed Mark Murphy, a former player for the Washington Redskins and now assistant to the executive director of the National Football League Players Assn.
Whether or not a player graduated seems to be connected statistically to the length of that player’s career and may even relate to the chronic problem of drug abuse among many NFL players, according to Murphy. Athletes with degrees play on average one year longer than players without degrees, he noted.