October 3, 2007

Grad rates improving but still must climb

MORE: Graduation Success Rates at major colleges

Graduation rates for Division I football, men's basketball and baseball have improved but continue to lag behind other sports, data released Wednesday by the NCAA showed.

The latest Graduation Success Rate figures shows that 77 percent of scholarship student-athletes who began college from 1997-2000 graduated within six years. The figure remains unchanged from a year ago and remains shy of NCAA president Myles Brand's long-term goal of 80 percent.

That includes a GSR rating of 61 percent for men's basketball, 67 percent for Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) football, 65 percent for Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA) football and 66 percent for baseball.

But the findings also showed progress in the graduation rates for football, men's basketball and baseball. The GSR rose from 55.8 percent for men's basketball players who entered school in 1995 to 63.6 percent for those who enrolled in 2000. The figures also showed that the GSR had increased for Bowl Subdivision football (63.1 to 66.6), Championship Subdivision football (62 percent to 64.7 percent) and baseball (65.3 to 67.3) over the same time period.

"This provides a good foundation from which to build," Brand said. "We are seeing traction and change."

Brand singled out men's basketball for its 7.8 percent increase in GSR from 1995 to 2000.

"That's very laudable," he said. "It is a high-percentage increase. Nonetheless, men's basketball still is the lowest of our sports in terms of graduation rate. We will need to work on that sport in order to bring up men's basketball to reach the benchmarks."

Brand has said he would like to see a GSR of at least 60 percent for each sport at every school. But many major sports programs remain far shy of that figure, most notably the Maryland men's basketball team, which had a GSR of zero according to the figures released Wednesday.

Other men's basketball programs with GSRs below 20 included Cal State Northridge (17), Florida A&M (17), Georgia (19), Iowa State (17), UNLV (15), San Jose State (17) and Southeast Missouri State (14).

On the other end of the spectrum, football programs with GSR at 90 or above were Air Force (92), Boston College (93), Duke (93), Navy (95), Northwestern (94), Notre Dame (93), Stanford (93), Vanderbilt (91) and Wake Forest (90).

Major men's basketball programs from the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or Southeastern conferences that posted GSRs at 90 or above included two-time defending national champion Florida (100), Florida State (100), Notre Dame (91) and Purdue (91).

The GSR differs from the federally mandated graduation rate in that it takes transfer students into account. Under the NCAA's math, schools aren't penalized for students who transfer to another institution while in good academic standing, and they're given credit for student-athletes who graduate after transferring into their school.

The NCAA created the GSR three years ago as a way of measuring the long-term academic success of student-athletes. NCAA officials considered the latest results a sign that the NCAA's recent attempts at academic reform are paying off.

"One thing to remember about these graduation rates is they're long-term measurements," said University of Hartford president Walter Harrison, who also chairs the NCAA committee on academic performance. "It's going to take a while before we fully know the effects of some of the changes we've made."

MORE: Graduation Success Rates at major colleges

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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