NCAA: 76 percent of athletes graduate in six years

Updated: January 19, 2006, 7:28 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Almost two dozen Division I schools reported Graduation Success Rates of at least 95 percent for athletes who enrolled from 1995 to 1998. All were higher than their general student populations and significantly higher than the rates reported by the federal government, according to NCAA figures released Thursday.

The average for the 318 Division I colleges, including the Army, Navy and Air Force academies, was 76 percent. Other GSR averages included 69 percent for men, 86 percent for women, 82 percent for whites, 59 percent for blacks and 68 percent for Hispanics.

The figures compiled by the NCAA are generally higher than those reported by the government because the GSR counts all athletes who earn a degree within six years of enrollment or, while still in good academic standing, transfer to other schools or turn professional.

The NCAA considers any rate above 50 percent, a standard adopted by the privately funded Knight Commission on college sports, to be good, president Myles Brand said.

"This is not Lake Woebegone, where every student athlete and every team can be above average," Brand said. "The 50 percent rate, while not sacrosanct, is a good rate to measure whether we're making progress."

The NCAA released data for specific sports in December. But Thursday's listing was the first school-by-school and gender and ethnic breakdown that also included federal graduation data and a comparison of the rates for athletes with the entire student bodies.

Brand said the federal rate is "somewhat flawed and conservative. ... I don't think anything surprised us, but the numbers are revealing."

For example, he pointed to baseball, where the NCAA rate was 18 percentage points higher than the federal rate.

"That indicates that Division I baseball players transfer a great deal," Brand said. "Not every team or sport will go up as a result of moving from federal rate to GSR, and those teams that go down are ones that probably brought in some transfer students who didn't graduate. We now have a way to track that."

Radford was the only Division I school with a 100 percent GSR for 1995-98, the most recent reporting period.

Greig Denny, athletic director at Radford, called it "an important indicator of the direction and your commitment to the academic success of your student athletes."

Next after Radford was the U.S. Naval Academy at 99 percent. Notre Dame and Valparaiso tied at 98 percent.

At the other end of the scale, 13 schools, most of them historically black colleges in the South or Southwest, had a GSR below 50 percent.

Savannah State had the lowest, at 22 percent, followed by Florida A&M at 35 percent, Texas Southern at 36 percent, New Orleans at 38 percent and Norfolk State and Charleston Southern at 40 percent.

"Clearly you're going to have to look at socioeconomic backgrounds and particularly the quality of the high school they attended," Brand said of the black-white difference. "There may well be other factors, but we don't have the research to support that right now.

"What's important from our point of view is that those who participate in intercollegiate athletics, including black males, are doing better than their demographic cohort in the general student body," Brand said.

The national graduation average for all Division I students, including non-athletes, was 59 percent.

A separate Academic Progress Report, which will trigger the first penalties under the NCAA's new academic reform package, are expected by late February or early March.

Radford, a Virginia school of about 9,200 in the Big South Conference, competes in every major sport except football and has about 300 athletes. It was listed with a 54 percent graduation rate for all students and 65 percent for athletes under the federal standard, but every athlete who left was academically eligible at the time, accounting for the NCAA's perfect rating.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press