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Revisiting Graduation Rates

I was interested in reading both sides of the back-and-forth in the comments yesterday regarding graduation rates of student-athletes, so I wanted to raise the topic again today with some additional information.

The most notable figure among Maryland's scores was the men's basketball program's 10-percent graduation rate (which was up from zero last year). The school pointed out that nine of the 10 freshmen and transfers measurable by the GSR left school prior to graduating to pursue professional basketball careers and that one of the players who left early to play professionally returned to graduate from Maryland, but outside the NCAA’s six-year window. Still, the 10-percent figure was the lowest among any program at any school in the six major conferences.

We didn't do anything with the grad rates in the paper for a few reasons, mostly because (1) unlike the APR scores released in May, there is no potential consequence for low scores and (2) I feel like it's the same story every year: Myles Brand champions the overall grad rates (bolstered by field hockey players and gymnasts and the like) while quietly acknowledging there's still work to do in football and men's basketball, Richard Lapchick says the gap between the rates of African-American athletes and their white counterparts remains a concern, schools' PR departments attempt to spin their numbers in the most favorable way, and then we all come back a year later and do it again.

I personally have decidedly mixed views on this issue. At one level, all schools can do is provide as much opportunity and support as possible for their student-athletes; after that, individuals have to decide how seriously to pursue their studies. No one scrutinizes the grad rate in the chemistry department. At another level, no one builds luxury suites overlooking the chemistry department to wine and dine entertain benefactors, and television networks don't pay big money for the rights to broadcast lecture halls.

Do schools take advantage of athletes in revenue sports? Sure, in some regards. Do athletes in revenue sports take advantage of schools? Sure, in some regards. Is it, on balance, a fair relationship? I don't know.

What can't be argued is that coaches who win games but whose players don't graduate get pay raises and coaches who lose games but whose players do graduate get fired. And before any of us are too quick to blame school presidents and athletic directors for that truth, realize that it is a direct result of our own actions. No one lines up to buy season tickets for the 4-8 team with a conference-leading graduation rate. As Michael Coreleone said (and yes, it all comes back to "The Godfather"), "We're all part of the same hypocrisy, Senator."

Further thoughts?

By Matthew Rennie  |  October 15, 2008; 10:04 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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There is no wine in the football or basketball suites.

Posted by: Dave | October 15, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Wine and other enathanolic aqueous solutions have been observed in chemistry laboratories.

Posted by: John | October 15, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Prior to Brown Vs. Board of Education both Black and White students did better in schools. Perhaps it's time to have a Black College Basketball League, a White College Basketball League, and a Multi-racial College Basketball League. The Multi-Racial Basketball Leage would be Like Division I and the other two leagues would be like Division II. This would give a chance for a lot of white guys to play college basketball because right now they have not chance in many cases considering blacks make up about 8% of college students and 80% of college basketball squads.

Posted by: Tom | October 15, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The responsibility to graduate lies solely on the student athlete. If anything, the student athlete has a better chance in graduated than anyone else. Teachers do give student athletes special treatment. I know because I am a college baseball player. The only reason kids don't graduate is because they lack the maturity and responsibility needed to go to class regularly and sit down to do an hours worth of homework a day.

Posted by: Tyson | October 15, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The purest form of college football is at the division 3 level. In my opinion, major college football players should be employees of their respective institutions and if interested in education that would be included in their compensation package.

Posted by: Michael | October 15, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

The student-athlete is mostly to blame assuming he has met some sort of admission requirements that indicates capability to succeed academically. However, today's young people are unappreciative of the opportunities handed to them. Most of them are products of an inferior public school system and parental guidance. These kids are given scholarships worth over $100,000 and many of them throw the educational opportunity down the drain and it costs them and our society dearly later in life.

Posted by: Jack P | October 15, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Maryland basketball graduation rate 11 % - nice job Gary Williams

Posted by: Gary | October 15, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

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