Graduation rates rise slightly in NCAA football, baseball, basketball

Updated: October 3, 2007, 6:01 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ever so slightly, graduation rates for men's Division I basketball, baseball and football players are continuing to rise.

The NCAA released figures Wednesday tracking the graduation rates at 318 Division I colleges and universities for athletes who enrolled from 1997-2000. The overall rate for men and women in all sports remained at 77 percent, but the individual rates for the three poorest-performing groups of athletes -- men's basketball, football and baseball -- showed slight improvements for the second consecutive year.

"Overall, the trend data is up, and it's very heartening," NCAA president Myles Brand said.

"We've seen in the last two years some upward movement. What that's saying is that in the athletic culture, the idea of academic performance ... is taking hold. It is getting traction, it is getting into the culture and changes are beginning to take place."

The latest NCAA data, compiled only for athletes on scholarship, showed graduation rates of 71.5 percent for men and 87.3 percent for women.

Aggregate scores for each school along with a more detailed breakdown by gender and ethnicity will be released later this fall.

The rate for men's basketball players who graduated within six years, the span used in determining the rates, rose from 59 percent to 61 percent, according to the NCAA's annual calculation.

That was still the lowest among the 18 men's sports evaluated but considerably higher than the 45 percent listed under federal guidelines. The difference in the two rates is due to the NCAA's inclusion of athletes who transferred and later graduated from other schools, which the federal numbers did not take into account.

This is the third year the NCAA has released its own data. The association uses a separate Academic Progess Report, which measures eligibility and retention of athletes, to assess penalties ranging from the loss of scholarships to disqualification from postseason tournaments for repeated failure.

"Thousands of coaches, athletic administrators and student athletes are understanding the importance of getting an education," said Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chairman of the NCAA academic performance committee.

"Our role is to provide the appropriate motivation when needed to improve, and the important measurements to make sure we're all working toward the same goal. We've got a ways to go, especially in those three particular sports, but we seem to be making good steps."

Baseball also was listed at 45 percent under the latest U.S. Department of Education figures but rose from 65 percent to 66 percent under the NCAA formula. There was also an improvement for football, listed at 56 percent under the federal figures but up from 65 percent to 67 percent in the NCAA calculations for the 119 teams in the new Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A. The Championship Subdivision, formerly I-AA, increased its rate from 62 percent to 65 percent for its 117 teams.

Only two schools had 100 percent graduation rates in football -- Boston University and Robert Morris. Boston's rating, however, was based only on players that enrolled in 1997 because the university dropped football after that season.

Davidson was next at 99 percent, followed by Furman and Georgetown at 97 percent and Alcorn State and William & Mary at 96 percent. Twenty others graduated at least 90 percent of their football players.

The worst, all in the Championship Subdivision, were Florida A&M at 22 percent, Idaho State at 28 percent, Savannah State at 30 percent, and Central Connecticut State and Gardner-Webb at 33 percent. The lowest rate for a Bowl Subdivision school was 36 percent at San Jose State.

Nineteen schools achieved 100 percent graduation rates in men's basketball; Maryland did not graduate any players and Southeast Missouri State was next-worst at 14 percent. In baseball, 17 schools were rated at 100 percent, while Savannah State was listed at 18 percent, Florida A&M at 23 percent, Delaware State at 26 percent and Florida Atlantic at 27 percent.

The most successful men's sports in the percentage of athletes graduating were fencing, gymnastics and lacrosse, each at 88 percent but representing far fewer participants than the major sports. Likewise, water polo was at 85 percent, followed by ice hockey at 84 percent and swimming and tennis, both at 82 percent.

For the women, 95 percent of the skiers graduated, followed by gymnastics and lacrosse at 94 percent, fencing at 93 percent and swimming at 91 percent.

Women's basketball dropped from 82 percent to 81 percent but was still significantly higher than the success rate for men.

Sixty-eight schools had 100 percent graduation rates in women's basketball, while the lowest were 20 percent by Chicago State and 21 percent by Florida A&M.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press