While most of us Wisconsinites are celebrating the Badgers Men's Basketball team's return to the Final Four this week, a writer for the Boston Globe believes we should be hanging our heads in shame. In an op-ed article entitled "Top on the courts, but Wisconsin at bottom of graduation rates" Derrick Z. Jackson criticizes the UW program for its "failure" to graduate its African-American players. Jackson cites NCAA statistics that show the Badgers had a ZERO PERCENT graduation rate for black players last season--making them "the worst" in the country. It's the kind of stinging rebuke that should have us Wisconsin fans taking a second look at our beloved program. So why don't we do that?
It is absolutely correct that the Badgers Men's Basketball team failed to graduate a single black player last year. That is because the only three African-American players on the team were underclassmen. Traevon Jackson was a junior while Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown were just freshmen last year. Unless they took a lot of advanced placement courses in high school, none of those guys were going to be getting degrees after last season. Derrick Z. Jackson calls himself a "cheesehead" in his article--but it's clear that he doesn't really follow the Badgers or he probably would have known the reason why Wisconsin got a zero in that ranking. He also could have gone to the UW Basketball website and checked out the profile pages of past Black Badgers players to see that the season before last both Ryan Evans and JD Wise graduated with degrees from Madison. So either the Athletic Department is lying to the NCAA--to make itself look bad for some reason--or there is something messed up with the tracking down in Kansas City.
Of course, we all know why this non-fact-checked article was written and published at the time it was. All this week, the predominantly White Badgers are going to be held up as all that is good and virtuous about college sports. "These are true STUDENT-Athletes" many will say when looking at Wisconsin. In fact, the New York Times featured many of these same Badgers players in an article showing them at their hotel during the regionals in last year's tournament taking proctored mid-term exams, working on senior projects and writing lengthy papers--ostensibly, while other school were just preparing for their next game.
Meanwhile, Kentucky is being portrayed as the ultimate "One and done" school--where predominantly Black players are brought in for the sole purpose of playing and winning basketball games--while academics are brushed off and likely ignored once an athlete is eligible to play in the second semester. And Derrick Z. Jackson probably doesn't think that is fair (and considering that all of the star Freshmen players from last year's Kentucky squad came back to play this year, he may be right) so he has to try and cut down the "privileged" Badgers--instead of trying to build up the Wildcats. Kind of sound familiar doesn't it?