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Nobody at Maryland Graduates

And honestly, I don't care. Gary Williams is right. The new NCAA data came out yesterday showing that Maryland was the only DI program in the nation that didn't graduate a single men's basketball player enrolled '97-'00. And my response is, meh. Is it really possible that there are kids who don't go to ACC powers on basketball scholarships because they've been dreaming their whole lives about getting that sociology degree within a six-year window? Really?

Sure, some go for the degree, but if you're willing to be honest and admit that big-time college basketball is nothing different than AAA baseball, I don't see what the big deal is. No one gets a degree from the Toledo Mud Hens. And one year in the NBA = about 20 years as a college-credentialed newspaper sports blogger, so if we're willing to assume that these hoopsters will catch up on their Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in their spare time, really, what's the big deal here?

Furthermore, isn't there some sort of admirable honesty in a 0 percent graduation rate? You know no one's cheating with a number like that. It's the most honest way to acknowledge that you're providing career training for future professional athletes, and not pretending, not fixing their grades and then handing them a piece of paper. Here's Gary, from the Sun:

"These people are very successful people," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "If you go to school to improve yourself economically, where have they failed? They make more than the average college graduate. Far more. If you're judging them just based on getting a degree, than OK, they haven't gotten a degree."

Kwame Brown has zero years of college education; things aren't working out so great for him. His spending a year at Maryland could have helped, but it would have just further depressed Maryland's rates, even though his own career choice would have been identical with or without the year at Maryland. In other word, the school doesn't do such a kid wrong. More from Gary, in The Post:

"The guys who are playing in the NBA, are they wrong for taking advantage of their ability? Are these people failures?"

But newspapers will gnash their teeth, as they always do, with judgmental sighs about the shame of it all.

Balt Sun: UM men's basketball's graduation rate worst in nation; NCAA data shows team failed to graduate a single player enrolled '97-'00

Wash Post: U-Md. Basketball Ranks Last in Graduation Data

The Diamondback: Men's Basketball Scores a Zero

Heather Dinich has it right over at Tracking the Terps, in which she provides some salary figures for the non-graduates. Further, to spout Gary's party line, we're talking about 10 players in this period: two transferred and graduated elsewhere, and a third graduated after the six-year window. If all you care about is the piece of paper, why wouldn't you count those three as grads? And now, suddenly, your rate is 30 percent? A massive improvement? Yawn.

The data is here, if you're really bored.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 4, 2007; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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Steinz, you're like a blogging father to me, so this kills me.

1. This is the third year in a row the Terps have dropped.

2. Considering that the majority of the players who left without a degree don't have a long shelf life on bouncing from the d-league to overseas, a degree would be helpful. And would have been achieved had players actually felt like the coach cared about more than their play on the court.

3. If you look at Carolina, #3 on the list, they have far more talent in the NBA compelled to return to school and finish what they started as student-athletes. That not only says something about the kids they are recruiting, but about what is instilled in them once they got there.

End of demo.

Posted by: | October 4, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

The real issue is the illusion that these players are fundamentally different than AAA baseball players. Instead of getting paid straight up for playing they are compensated based on an archaic notion that their primary endevour is education and they are amatuer athletes on the side so they get a free education for it. But they aren't using the free ed because everyone knows its a sham. If it is AAA basketball why must we use our institutions of higher learning to support it instead of paying these guys and giving them AAA salaries independently? Same goes for football.

Posted by: bluemeanies | October 4, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Suck it Terps!

Posted by: WaPoLiveFan16 | October 4, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

0 is bad. No doubt about that.

But the reasons behind the zero are many and I believe most sports fans understand this.

Posted by: Ravioliman66 | October 4, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

the university of maryland-- teaching students nothing since 1856

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

This is not a shock at all. Any non-Maryland fan knows that Gary Williams runs a dirty program but since he won an NCAA title, the powers that be ignore the obvious issues. I wonder what Williams thought about Lonny Baxter's love for guns. Maybe if he had spent more time in the classroom, he would've been able to tell right from wrong.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The only programs in the ACC that are dirtier than Terps basketball are FSU football and Hookie football.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I'd feel much better if Maryland gave its players meaningless sociology, family studies, sports management or communications degrees like Duke and UNC. That way we could all participate in the hypocrisy of pretending these kids are students.

Posted by: Matt | October 4, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

While you're on the money about the hypocrisy, you don't follow that to its logical end, in which one would wonder what business large, state-funded research universities have squandering resources in order to be the Toledo Mud Hens.

Gary's response is understandable but illustrates a telling misunderstanding about why one ought to pursue higher education. It's about a lot more than just economic betterment -- as anyone who has parlayed a bachelor's degree into a blog ought to know.

Posted by: DevilGrad | October 4, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I gotta go with the masses on this one. I am a Terp, and this is a rather sad anecdote. Yes, we did have 30% of the guys graduate somehow, and the numbers are far better now than they were from '97-00, but Gary and the athletic department as a whole need to take education more seriously.

They're still students. Considering what a normal in-state student pays for a year at UMD, let alone out of state, it shouldn't be that hard to think of one's scholarship on economic terms, if that's the measuring stick. Each scholarship is worth at least 25,000 a year all told. That's a major chuck of change for most anyone.

Of course we also had Mike Mardisich graduate since then with a double major in business and accounting and I beleive on the Dean's List, so we got some brains in there to.

Posted by: EricS | October 4, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse


First, I didn't realize that Gary Williams HAD any apologists left, but I guess there still are some.

Second, call college education for basketball players a sham if you want, but my guess is that the vast majority of players (you know, the 99 percent who DON'T make it to the NBA) would say that the free education they received will serve them for many years. But I guess everyone who goes to Maryland IS an NBA star, right? So they don't need the education? Uh-huh. Sure.

Give me a break. This is abysmal performance, and to call it anything else is just making excuses for Floppy McSweaty up in College Park.

Yes, there are other reasons behind a zero percent rate. But the coach's attitude of complete indifference is inexcusable. I hope the parents of the players Maryland is trying to recruit are paying attention to Gary's complete lack of emphasis on education of any sort.

Posted by: etp | October 4, 2007 4:45 PM | Report abuse

hokie football isn't dirty like fsu and miami football are, nor is it dirty like maryland's basketball team. with the exception of marcus vick, the bad apples behaved themselves while in school, and in that vick's case, he was kicked out of school when he crossed the line. at least their players don't get arrested like all of the florida schools do.

Posted by: sean | October 4, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

sean, I'm a Hokie. The programs are clean. Players have been asked to leave or removed from the school and we have had a few arrests... If there is a conference we can all agree is dirtier than most in all sports(Olympic sports included), it's the Pac-10...

Posted by: sitruc | October 4, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

People don't go to college for the degree itself; they go to get the degree so they can make some money. As someone who graduated from Maryland summa cum laude with a double major, I can guarantee you that every Maryland basketball player with a professional career of any kind is currently making more money than I am. Therefore, they have had a successful stay in college. Next question.

Posted by: Lindemann | October 4, 2007 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Boy, I'm stunned. That the "zero" percent graduation rate needs to be placed in a context of other issues in order to be correctly understood (e.g., the financial success of the players), no problem.

But to buy into Williams' self-deception, his easy trivializing of the the goals of the very institution which provides the broader horizon and justification of everything he and his team is ultimately supposed to be about (i.e., a college education) is disturbing.

Steinberg, you disappoint. Your argument seems to be that's-the-way-it-is, get real. Warning bells should off anytime someone excuses social problems with that line -- it has a long and disturbing history in justifying complacency before social ills and abuses, when, in reality, we just prefer complacency simply to avoid the costs involved in correcting the problems.

Some of us want to keep challenging ourselves, the athletic world and our coaches to reach the ideals we associate with the student-athlete. This is one time I'm glad that the NCAA has the authority which it does. Sports supporters like yourself can be scary.

Posted by: Kaya W | October 4, 2007 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight - it's no big deal when Maryland graduates 0% but it was a big deal (front page news) when GWU took two "risky" kids from Philly Lutheran, one of whom graduated in four years and the other on track to graduate in four years. I finally understand what is going on here - it's not so much that UMD doesn't get it - it is really that the WP's sportswriters and editors have raised hypocrisy to a new art form.

Posted by: Truth Seeker | October 5, 2007 8:18 AM | Report abuse

No personal responsibility posts directed at the STUDENTS.

We live in a permissive society, where we blame everybody but the person who is to blame. How can GWilliams or any coach make a student get his degree?

Blame the students who get free tutoring, free study skills, free staff monitoring and mandatory study halls.

Posted by: mcfadden | October 5, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

"Meh!" is your response to a zero graduation rate! I don't expect you to get this Mr. Steinberg, nor do I expect you to care, but since Maryland and many other Div I schools rely on mostly African American (or black) men to power their program, it is socially irresponsible to be so dismissive of this issue.

Please look at the employment rate for young black men without college degrees, look at their long term earning potential or their health status and life expectancy or retirement prospects. These young men fare horribly in the real world, even when you include those who are journeymen in the NBA or foreign leagues.

A handful make the grade and play for 5 to 7 years. The rest are probably the office mail room clerks who you talk sports with you at the Washington Post. They are the store clerks and stock room clerks or if they get lucky, government workers you see every day in labor intensive jobs, even as Maryland prepares its real students for the knowledge-based economy that drives the Washington, DC region's employment.

I know you don't care if Maryland graduates these young men. However, for those educators and communities struggling to improve lives by teaching young blacks that education and skills beyond the basketball court are important to long-term survival you confirm their worst fears. The fear is that these young men are just athletic specimens that can be used by publicly funded state institutions (and private schools) for million dollar coaches, boosters and fund raising, while producing big revenues for media outlets and colleges. No worries for you (in fact it is a "meh!" - not enough to even move the needle) that at Maryland their real reward is the mere "chance" to make it big in the professional sports world. A truly awful rate of return for your future.

The fact that so many young black men think this chance is a worthwhile one is the black community's failing (and a social costs to all communities). It is even more of shame that journalist/bloggers and head coaches that profit from this belief agree that these young men are making a worthwhile bet. A flag-ship college run by the state likely has a mission statement that is betrayed by the UMd basketball graduation rate.

I am a black man approaching 40 years old, I live in Maryland and think College Park is a fine school. I am ashamed that Maryland's coach, Gary Williams, could be so callous and insensitive about education, especially given the race and socio-economic class of the athletes he recruits. I am equally dismayed that a sports writer could buy his faulty economics without any analysis of the social costs, the real long-term economic costs for the young men that drift through such a system without a college degree.

As for the personal responsibility of these student athletes. I agree wholeheartedly that they can make better choices but 17 and 18 year-olds lured by a system that dangles rewards and future professional stardom with a big-time athletic program are easily swayed. I cannot easily reach recruit and sit down and talk to them. I can send a letter to the University president, the athletic department, this sports writer and blogger and Gary Williams himself and say that the school should be ashamed of pretending to care about graduation rates or education. Gary Williams runs a minor league sports team at Maryland and by his own words thinks that education is a lower concern than the lure of fleeting professional sports money and glory. Perhaps Gary Williams does not know much about the lives of the men he recruits, perhaps he does not care about the education levels of the communities he visits, but he should care a little bit and the University should care as well. Maybe he would get better students and athletes if he demonstrated that he sees them as more than future professional basketball players.

Posted by: TJefferson | October 5, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

The six year window selected by the NCAA seems arbitrary and biased against Basketball Programs. Opportunities exist overseas for fundamentally solid basketball players. The NBA is not the only option. An overseas career could average five to ten years. College is about learning life skills and critical thinking. Any time in this setting is worthwhile. Prejudging a six year window for a degree is unfair.

Posted by: Terp Fan | October 5, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Six years is "arbitrary"? Please. If anything, it's gratuitous. These kids are being given a free education in return for their basketball skills. There ought to be an expectation that they graduate, or at least stay on track to graduate before going pro.

This idea that kids are leaving to grab the money overseas is a joke. If they were academically eligible and on track to get a degree, do they leave college to sign a contract in Germany? No way. Defending Maryland's atrocious record is pointless and counterproductive.

Posted by: Unimpressed | October 5, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Wow. 0% graduation rate is ok? I agree with Truthseeker, how is this ok but the GW issue front page news? Oh wait, I do get it, Steinberg is in bed with UMD. A total homer. To scared to upset some of the readers. God, the sports section of this paper is a rag.

Posted by: 44 | October 5, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

You clearly have not really looked into the specifics of the players involved. You talk about a "handful" making the grade and the rest being mail room clerks, yet 10 players on those teams played professional basketball. You consider a multi-million dollar contract in the cases of Dixon, Blake, Wilcox to be be GW failing these men? Are you saying that he should somehow force them to come back to MD and get a worthless degree they will never use, within 6 years of the date they entered school?
Here is a list of players during that time period who got their degrees after the arbitrary 6 year window the NCAA uses:
Keith Booth
Evers Burns
Matthew Downing
Eric Kjome
Cedric Lewis
Kevin McClinton
Laron Profit
Duane Simpkins
Terrel Stokes
Tahj Holden

Seems to me that you should educate yourself about the issue before you start claiming GW is callous and indifferent to the welfare of these men.

Posted by: Freestater | October 6, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

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