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|
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|
|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|
|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|
|U. of Louisville||50||40|
|U. of Nevada at Reno||35||40|
|U. of Maryland at College Park||0||0|
|U. of Virginia||80||65|
The NCAA has appointed a special panel to look at strategies for improving the academic performance of male basketball players.