A LOT of University of Maryland hoop fans have been appalled by Steve Francis' antics since he abandoned College Park for a fat NBA contract last spring. But Mr. Francis may have the last laugh after all, thanks to a survey released this week by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Not one male basketball player on scholarship earned a degree within six years at any of the large public colleges in Maryland in the NCAA's Division I. The odds of a youngster playing basketball for a living may be astronomical, but the odds of his earning a degree in Maryland while playing college ball are apparently even greater.
The inherent message from that fact? Take the money and run.
Coaches such as Maryland's Gary Williams and Coppin State University's Fang Mitchell are regarded as excellent molders of young men, but their excuses ring hollow for why not a single freshman in 1992 graduated in a timely fashion.
On the women's side, the coaches must be doing a better job of convincing players that education doesn't merely fill the gaps between basketball practices. Their graduation rates are better than the overall student body in many instances.
There's also a striking contrast with men's teams at private colleges, such as Loyola College in Baltimore, where 100 percent of the players on scholarship graduated, and Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, whose respectable 75-percent rate hasn't kept its coach from winning more games than any active colleague.
Under such circumstances, why would a big-college male star pay attention to advice about the benefit of completing one's education?
There are just too many examples that suggest even his less-skilled teammates won't make the grade.
Pub Date: 9/06/99