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Graduation rates rise slightly in NCAA football, baseball, basketball

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.