Graduation Rates for Athletes Stable

October 4, 2007

The proportion of athletes who entered Division I colleges between 1997 and 2000 and earned degrees within six years -- 77 percent -- did not budge from the previous year, National Collegiate Athletic Association officials said Wednesday in their first of several annual reports on how athletes fared academically. But the association's president, Myles Brand, cited data showing improvements over time in high-profile (and traditionally low performing) sports -- notably men's basketball -- to argue that the NCAA's newly adopted academic rules are beginning to have an impact.

"We have seen some effect of our academic reform, and it has been positive," Brand said in a telephone news conference Wednesday. He was particularly enthused by statistics showing that the Graduation Success Rate -- the NCAA's home-grown metric for measuring longterm academic performance -- for men's basketball had improved from 55.8 percent for the class that entered Division I colleges in 1995 to 63.6 percent for the class of 2000. "It is very encouraging as an early indication that thousands of athletic administrators, coaches and, most importantly, student-athletes are understanding the importance of getting an education and taking to heart the value of being a student-athlete," added Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Academic Performance, which helped draft the new standards.

The information released by the association on Wednesday provides sport-specific data both at the national level and college by college (select from the dropdown menus on the linked page to find your institution of choice). The NCAA provides some data about athletes' performance using the federal graduation rate, but the association emphasizes the Graduation Success Rate, which Brand characterizes as far more accurate because it includes athletes who transfer into NCAA colleges (rather than focusing exclusively on first-time freshmen) and excludes from the denominator athletes who leave their colleges in good academic standing.

At the national level, although the overall proportion of athletes who earned degrees stayed constant from the previous year's report, Brand emphasized the progress in multiple sports over the last few years, as the NCAA has altered its rules to hold colleges more accountable for the classroom success of their athletes.

Below is a look at how athletes fared sport by sport at the national level:

Graduation Success Rates and Federal Graduation Rates for Division I Athletes, Selected Years

  1996 Entering Class 1998 Entering Class 2000 Entering Class 1997-2000 Entering Classes
Men's Sports GSR GSR GSR Federal Rate
Baseball 66.7% 64.7% 67.3% 45%
Basketball 58.7 59.0 63.6 45
Cross Country/Track 74.0 73.6 73.4 60
Fencing 82.4 90.0 84.6 70
Football (FBS) 65.6 65.4 64.7 56
Football (FCS) 63.4 65.7 63.5 54
Golf 77.0 77.6 80.7 60
Gymnastics 80.4 91.8 84.8 72
Ice Hockey 81.5 82.3 79.1 68
Lacrosse 92.0 85.0 90.2 75
Rifle 67.9 73.1 82.8 62
Skiing 100.0 68.4 76.9 60
Soccer 77.5 80.4 75.3 58
Swimming 81.7 81.1 83.8 68
Tennis 82.1 83.3 81.8 63
Volleyball 74.0 84.1 84.5 65
Water Polo 86.0 86.7 87.1 69
Wrestling 71.6 70.4 73.2 53
         
Women's Sports        
Basketball 73.7 81.5 80.7 64
Bowling 100.0 50.0 68.2 59
Crew 89.7 89.2 91.8 73
Cross Country/Track 82.8 83.1 84.3 68
Fencing 92.9 94.7 89.3 83
Field Hockey 93.7 95.5 93.1 82
Golf 90.6 86.5 87.9 69
Gymnastics 92.4 97.1 94.6 85
Ice Hockey 100.0 83.3 96.8 74
Lacrosse 93.0 92.9 94.2 83
Rifle 90.0 62.5 80.0 68
Skiing 93.8 95.8 100.0 79
Soccer 86.7 86.6 89.6 71
Softball 84.5 84.8 86.0 70
Swimming 91.1 90.6 90.5 75
Tennis 88.4 88.8 89.1 70
Volleyball 86.6 87.4 88.0 71
Water Polo 80.8 81.7 81.0 77

Although Brand touted the improvement in men's basketball graduation rates in recent years, he also noted that the sport lags behind all others in its overall performance. Below is a snapshot of how last year's top Division I basketball teams (as ranked by USA Today at season's end) fared in the latest NCAA stats, which shows starkly the ways in which many big-time basketball programs -- including some of the most successful ones -- fail to graduate players:

Graduation Success and Federal Graduation Rates for 2006-7 Division I Top 25 Men's Basketball Teams, 1997-2000 Entering Classes

  Graduation Success Rate Federal Rate
U. of Florida 100% 67%
Ohio State U. 40 27
U. of California at Los Angeles 40 29
Georgetown U. 82 60
U. of Kansas 45 40
U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 86 60
U. of Memphis 40 30
U. of Oregon 59 43
Texas A&M U. 40 25
U. of Pittsburgh 56 44
Southern Illinois U. 79 73
U. of Wisconsin at Madison 67 62
Butler U. 92 82
U. of Nevada at Las Vegas 15 0
U. of Southern California 29 27
U. of Texas at Austin 33 23
Washington State U. 35 14
U. of Tennessee at Knoxville 33 20
Vanderbilt U. 83 64
U. of Louisville 50 40
U. of Nevada at Reno 35 40
Winthrop U. 77 50
U. of Maryland at College Park 0 0
U. of Virginia 80 65
Virginia Tech 67 17

The NCAA has appointed a special panel to look at strategies for improving the academic performance of male basketball players.

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