The Bootleg's 2011 Graduation Rate Analysis

It wouldn't be spring without The Bootleg's always-anticipated annual graduation rate analysis! Disturbingly, several Pac-10 schools continue to embarrass themselves and their ever-enabling alumni with consistently demonstrated inability to graduate their student-athletes. Once again, we flip the lights on and expose the latest set of data from the NCAA. Let the college sports cockroaches scurry!

The Bootleg's 2011 Graduation Rate Analysis

Once again, as part of our never-ending effort to contribute to the debate surrounding the appropriate long-term goals for collegiate athletics, The Bootleg is proud to present our 10th annual analysis of student-athlete graduation rates. Many thanks to our dedicated staff for producing this outstanding overview, which is often mentioned as being among the most important information our site disseminates each year.

This year's detailed analysis breaks down the graduation rate statistics for the three "major" collegiate sports - football, basketball, and baseball. For comparison purposes, we also take a look at overall graduation rates for all student-athletes.

The Bootleg's analysis identifies the top-10 and bottom-10 graduation rates for all of the major programs in each sport. In addition, we are providing the football and basketball graduation rates for each of the six major conferences, along with the grad rates for selected other schools.

As part of our duty to inform the interested, but often in-denial public, we have also presented an analysis of the "institutions of higher learning" that bear witness to the biggest "graduation rate gaps" in each sport - that is, the biggest gaps between the student-athlete graduation rate and the overall student body graduation rate. The first time The Bootleg ever published the gap information, back in about 1995, the largest gap in Division I football was experienced at the University of Washington, a shameful and embarrassing situtation the Huskies, as you will see below, have improved upon dramatically since. (Props to them!) UCLA now wears the infamous national crown, with USC and California placing among the national top-five in terms of biggest gaps. Incredible! Cal and their main man Monty can proudly lay claim to possessing the single-largest graduation gap of any Division I basketball program. Go Bears! USC grabs the baseball crown, producing the biggest gap in the nation in that sport! Pat Haden, are you out there?

Our analysis uses the "Graduation Success Rates" (GSRs) from the NCAA's 2010 graduation rate report. The NCAA invented Graduation Success Rates a few years ago in an effort to make its graduation numbers look better. It worked. The overall GSR for all Division I athletes is 15 percentage points higher than the graduation rates calculated under the old method (the Department of Education's "federal graduation rate"). Despite the obvious manipulation of the numbers, the new Graduation Success Rates have been widely accepted, so we are using them here. The Graduation Success Rate is the percentage of athletes who graduated within six years after starting college. Outgoing transfers do not hurt the GSR, so long as the departing player was in good academic standing. GSRs are "four class" graduation rates - that is, combined graduation rates for the four most recent classes for which information has been reported.


Football Graduation Rates: Pac-10
Arizona St. 63%
Washington St. 60%
Oregon St. 56%

Stanford once again leads the Pac-10 in football graduation rates, as has been the case for all ten years of our analysis. Washington moved up nicely, from 69% last year to 82% this year, placing a strong second. Eight of the Pac-10 schools reported football grad rates that were below the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) average of 67%. Arizona once again brings up the rear. Incoming Pac-10 members Colorado and Utah had football grad rates of 59% and 62%, which would put them in the middle of the pack.

Football Graduation Rates: Big 10
Penn St. 84%
Ohio St. 63%
Michigan St. 55%

Northwestern leads the Big 10 once again, with Penn State continuing to hold on to the second position. Minnesota barely climbed out of the bottom spot in the conference, passing Michigan State by just one percentage point.

Football Graduation Rates: SEC
LSU 67%
Mississippi St. 64%
Auburn 63%
Kentucky 63%
Mississippi 61%
South Carolina 57%
Arkansas 55%
Tennessee 53%

Vanderbilt continues to be the class of the SEC in football grad rates. At least they led the SEC in something. Georgia somehow has managed to improve its football graduation rate from 41% to 68% in just three years, going from the bottom of the conference to the # 2 position, which is either a cause for commendation or a reason to wonder about the data, depending on your point of view.

Football Graduation Rates: Big 12
Missouri 71%
Texas Tech 69%
Kansas St. 69%
Nebraska 68%
Baylor 64%
Iowa St. 64%
Colorado 59%
Oklahoma St. 59%
Texas A&M 57%
Kansas 56%
Texas 49%
Oklahoma 44%

For the first time, Missouri leads the Big 12 in football graduation rates, passing last year's leader, Nebraska. However, leading the Big 12 in graduation rates isn't such a big accomplishment. Missouri's 71% grad rate ranks only 30th in the FBS. Oklahoma and Texas have some of the worst football graduation rates in the nation. Oklahoma's is the worst among all BCS schools.

Football Graduation Rates: ACC
Duke 95%
Boston College 90%
Wake Forest 81%
Miami 81%
Virginia Tech 79%
North Carolina 75%
Virginia 75%
Florida St. 64%
Maryland 64%
Clemson 60%
North Carolina St. 56%
Georgia Tech 49%

The ACC continues to report the best football graduation rates of any BCS conference. Of course, the ACC also has more private schools than any other BCS conference, and the private schools have the top four graduation rates in the conference.

Football Graduation Rates: Big East
Rutgers 88%
Cincinnati 81%
Connecticut 77%
Syracuse 76%
West Virginia 72%
Pittsburgh 69%
Louisville 63%
South Florida 46%

Last year's Big East leader, Connecticut, dropped to third place. The new leader is, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Rutgers. Rutgers has raised its graduation rate from a poor 55% to a very strong 88% in just three years. That's remarkable.

Football Graduation Rates: Selected Others
Notre Dame 96%
Navy 92%
TCU 71%
Boise St. 65%
BYU 62%
Utah 62%

TCU and Boise State raised their grad rates by 6 and 7 percentage points respectively this year.

Top 10 Football Grad Rates: FBS
Notre Dame 96%
Duke 95%
Northwestern 95%
Rice 93%
Navy 92%
Boston College 90%
Vanderbilt 89%
Rutgers 88%
Stanford 86%
Air Force 86%

Army, Penn State, and Miami (Ohio) dropped out of the Top 10 this year. Rutgers is making its first appearance on the top 10 list, and Rice returns to the top 10 for the first time since our 2006 analysis.

Bottom 10 Football Grad Rates: FBS
San Jose St. 42%
Oklahoma 44%
South Florida 46%
Hawaii 46%
Florida International 46%
Arizona 48%
Texas 49%
Georgia Tech 49%
Houston 51%
Eastern Michigan 51%

The BCS schools with the worst graduation rates are Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia Tech. All of them were in the bottom 10 last year as well. Oregon managed to climb out of the bottom 10 this year.

Grad Rates for African American Football Players: Selected Schools
  African American Caucasian Difference
Auburn 49% 100% -51%
North Carolina St. 45% 89% -44%
Oregon 41% 76% -35%
Arkansas 45% 79% -34%
Colorado 49% 81% -32%
Georgia Tech 43% 75% -32%
Mississippi 55% 85% -30%
Texas 38% 66% -28%
UCLA 39% 67% -28%
USC 51% 77% -26%

The racial gap in graduation rates at Auburn is little short of stunning. Auburn graduated 100% of its white players over a four year period, but only 49% of its African-American players. That's an extreme case, but there are plenty of other schools with big racial gaps.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Football Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 15% or more)
  Football Players All Students Difference
UCLA 52% 89% -37%
Texas 49% 78% -29%
Georgia Tech 49% 78% -29%
USC 61% 86% -25%
Cal 65% 89% -24%
Texas A&M 57% 78% -21%
Michigan St. 55% 75% -20%
Oklahoma 44% 62% -18%
Virginia 75% 93% -18%
Clemson 60% 77% -17%
Maryland 64% 81% -17%
BYU 62% 78% -16%
Michigan 72% 88% -16%
Wisconsin 65% 80% -15%
North Carolina St. 56% 71% -15%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps,"
see the note at the end of the analysis.

UCLA easily has the worst "graduation rate gap" in major college football. Most UCLA students can be reasonably confident of getting a degree. But football players, not so much. Cal and USC aren't a whole lot better, with significant gaps between football player grad rates and student body grad rates.


Basketball Graduation Rates: Pac-10
Stanford 80%
Oregon 79%
UCLA 70%
Oregon St. 64%
Arizona St. 60%
Washington St. 44%
Washington 44%
USC 42%
Cal 30%
Arizona 20%

Stanford is back on the top of the basketball graduation rate list this year. Stanford's 80% basketball graduation rate is its best in several years, as the rolling four-year average no longer reflects the early departures of Casey Jacobsen and Curtis Borchardt. (Stanford's grad rate does reflect Josh Childress' early departure for the NBA; the Lopez twins are not yet included.) Incoming conference schools Colorado and Utah have basketball grad rates of 43% and 67%. Arizona has the worst basketball graduation rate of any major basketball program in the nation.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big 10
Illinois 100%
Northwestern 90%
Penn St. 86%
Wisconsin 70%
Purdue 67%
Ohio St. 64%
Indiana 62%
Iowa 55%
Michigan St. 50%
Minnesota 42%
Michigan 36%

Congratulations to Illinois, which reported a 100% grad rate for the first time. On the other end of the scale, Michigan is spending its second straight year at the bottom of the Big 10, slipping all the way down to 36%.

Basketball Graduation Rates: SEC
Vanderbilt 93%
Alabama 75%
Mississippi 64%
South Carolina 53%
LSU 50%
Florida 44%
Kentucky 44%
Mississippi St. 43%
Tennessee 40%
Georgia 36%
Auburn 27%
Arkansas 22%

Florida's basketball grad rate dropped from 89% two years ago to 44% this year. Arkansas also is falling fast, from 58% last year all the way down to 22%.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big 12
Oklahoma St. 92%
Nebraska 82%
Kansas 80%
Texas A&M 64%
Oklahoma 55%
Missouri 44%
Texas Tech 44%
Colorado 43%
Texas 42%
Kansas St. 40%
Baylor 38%
Iowa St. 35%

Kansas has improved its graduation rate from 45% to 80% in three years. The Big 12 has a new last-place school, with Iowa State replacing Colorado at the bottom.

Basketball Graduation Rates: ACC
Wake Forest 100%
Boston College 88%
North Carolina 88%
Duke 83%
Virginia Tech 75%
Florida St. 73%
Miami 73%
Clemson 71%
North Carolina St. 60%
Virginia 36%
Georgia Tech 36%
Maryland 31%

Wake Forest has posted at least six consecutive years with a 100% basketball grad rate. Kudos to Wake. Maryland's 31% graduation rate is an embarrassment, but at least Maryland cracked double figures for the first time in five years. Clemson has gone from 29% to 71% in two years.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big East
Villanova 100%
Notre Dame 100%
Marquette 91%
Providence 80%
Georgetown 78%
Rutgers 78%
West Virginia 71%
St. John's 70%
Seton Hall 69%
DePaul 67%
Pittsburgh 64%
Syracuse 54%
Cincinnati 53%
South Florida 50%
Louisville 50%
Connecticut 31%

For the fifth straight year, Connecticut has the worst basketball graduation rate in the Big East. Connecticut also has one of the worst grad rates in the entire nation.

Basketball Grad Rates: Selected Others
BYU 100%
Xavier 92%
Butler 83%
Richmond 83%
Gonzaga 73%
St. Mary's 69%
Memphis 58%
San Diego St. 58%
Virginia Commonwealth 56%
Temple 33%

BYU, Butler, and Richmond has good years on the court and in the classroom.

Top 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Illinois 100%
Wake Forest 100%
Villanova 100%
BYU 100%
Notre Dame 100%
Utah St. 100%
Vanderbilt 93%
Oklahoma St. 92%
Xavier 92%
Marquette 91%

Illinois and Villanova moved up to 100% this year, joining four other schools that repeated last year's 100% performance.

Bottom 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Arizona 20%
Arkansas 22%
Auburn 27%
Cal 30%
Connecticut 31%
Maryland 31%
Temple 33%
Iowa St. 35%
Georgia 36%
Georgia Tech 36%
Michigan 36%
Virginia 36%

Cal is in the bottom 10 in basketball grad rates for the third straight year. Maryland, Arizona, Georgia, and Connecticut also repeated in the bottom 10 this year. Arizona finally made it all the way to the bottom, replacing Maryland in the cellar.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Basketball Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 35% or more)
  Basketball Players All Students Difference
Cal 30% 89% -59%
Virginia 36% 93% -57%
Michigan 36% 88% -52%
Maryland 31% 81% -50%
Connecticut 31% 76% -45%
USC 42% 86% -44%
Georgia Tech 36% 78% -42%
Georgia 36% 78% -42%
Arizona 20% 57% -37%
Auburn 27% 64% -37%
Florida 44% 81% -37%
Texas 42% 78% -36%
Arkansas 22% 58% -36%
Baylor 38% 73% -35%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps,"
see the note at the end of the analysis.

Cal has the worst "graduation rate gap" among all major basketball programs. This is not a surprise, given that Cal finished second on this list for the last three years, behind Maryland. With Maryland improving somewhat, Cal finds itself with the worst grad rate gap between basketball players and regular students.


Baseball Graduation Rates: Pac-10
Stanford 100%
Cal 88%
Washington 84%
UCLA 68%
Washington St. 53%
USC 44%
Oregon St. 43%
Arizona St. 43%
Arizona 28%
Oregon new team

Stanford reported a 100% baseball graduation rate for the third straight year. The "University" of Arizona pulled off an appalling, but impressive hat trick, with the Pac 10's worst graduation rate in football, basketball, and baseball.

Baseball Graduation Rates: Selected Others
Rice 92%
North Carolina 89%
Clemson 83%
Georgia Tech 83%
Florida St. 81%
Division I average 70%
Florida 67%
South Carolina 64%
Long Beach St. 63%
Georgia 63%
Miami 55%
LSU 54%
Nebraska 48%
Texas 43%
Fresno St. 42%
Cal State Fullerton 34%

Georgia Tech, which is in the bottom 10 in football and basketball, does much better in baseball. Texas continues to have one of the worst graduation rates of any major baseball program, down there with the Cal State schools.

Top 10 Baseball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Stanford 100%
Boston College 100%
U. of San Diego 100%
Notre Dame 100%
Virginia 100%
Wake Forest 100%
Duke 96%
Southern Mississippi 96%
Iowa 95%
Northwestern 95%
Vanderbilt 95%
Virginia Tech 95%

Graduation rates in baseball are a few percentage points higher than in football or basketball. Perhaps that's partly because the minor leagues are available as an option for baseball players who really don't belong in college.

Bottom 10 Baseball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Arizona 28%
Cal State Fullerton 34%
Texas Tech 41%
Fresno St. 42%
Texas 43%
Arizona St. 43%
Oregon St. 43%
USC 44%
North Carolina St. 45%
Nebraska 48%
Mississippi 48%

After four straight years with the worst baseball graduation rate of any major program, Cal State Fullerton has edged out of the bottom spot. Arizona has fallen into last place. Remarkably, and a fact we would hope Arizona taxpayers would note, U-of-A! also has the worst graduation rate of all major basketball programs and the second-worst graduation rate of all BCS football programs.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Baseball Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 20% or more)
  Baseball Players All Students Difference
USC 44% 86% -42%
Texas 43% 78% -35%
Arizona 28% 57% -29%
North Carolina St. 45% 71% -26%
Miami 55% 77% -22%
UCLA 68% 89% -21%
Texas A&M 58% 78% -20%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps," see
the note at the end of the analysis.

USC and Texas both showed up on all three "graduation rate gap" lists - football, basketball, and baseball. The worst "graduation rate gap" in each of those three sports belongs to a different Pac 10 school - UCLA has the worst graduation rate gap in football, Cal has the worst gap in basketball, and USC has the worst gap in baseball. Would Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott care to comment? Mr. Scott is a very sharp guy and must be reading these statistics...and wincing.


Grad Rates for All Athletes: Pac-10
Stanford 94%
Washington 87%
Cal 81%
UCLA 79%
USC 78%
Arizona St. 76%
Oregon 76%
Oregon St. 76%
Washington St. 74%
Arizona 65%

Incoming conference members Utah and Colorado had graduation rates of 79% and 74% respectively. Arizona's graduation rate of 65% for all athletes is the worst for any major sports program.

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Selected Others
Penn St. 90%
North Carolina 87%
Florida 82%
Alabama 81%
Division I average 79%
Michigan 79%
Ohio St. 79%
Florida St. 79%
Auburn 77%
Georgia 77%
Georgia Tech 75%
LSU 74%
Tennessee 74%
Nebraska 73%
Texas 70%
Oklahoma 69%

Student-athletes in the minor sports, especially women's sports, generally have higher graduation rates than student-athletes in the major men's sports. Women athletes and minor sport athletes improve the overall student-athlete graduation rates. As a result, most schools have overall graduation rates that look respectable. Overall grad rates for most schools tend to be clustered together within a relatively small range.

Top 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
Notre Dame 99%
Duke 97%
Northwestern 97%
Navy 96%
Boston College 96%
Rice 95%
Stanford 94%
Vanderbilt 93%
Wake Forest 93%
Penn St. 90%
Air Force 90%
Army 90%

There aren't many surprises in the top 10 list. The top 10 are mostly good private schools and service academies. Congratulations to Penn State for breaking into that group.

Bottom 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
Arizona 65%
Texas Tech 67%
Oklahoma 69%
Texas 70%
Arkansas 72%
Mississippi 72%
North Carolina St. 72%
Texas A&M 72%
Nebraska 73%
Kentucky 74%
Colorado 74%
Washington St. 74%
LSU 74%
South Carolina 74%
Tennessee 74%

This year, we tightened up our definition of "major programs" for purposes of this category. We were tired of kicking around San Jose State, UAB, and the like. So, we've focused on overall athlete graduation rates of the BCS conference programs. Based on what we saw in the major sport grad rates, it should be no surprise to see Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas down near the bottom of this list.

Source: All figures are taken from the NCAA 2010 Graduation Success Rate Report and the NCAA 2010 Federal Graduation Rate Report. All figures are "four class" graduation rates, representing the combined graduation rate of the four most recent classes for which data are available. These figures measure the percentage of scholarship athletes who graduate within six years after enrollment as freshmen. With the exception noted below, this analysis uses Graduation Success Rates, rather than federal graduation rates. Outgoing transfers in good academic standing are excluded from the Graduation Success Rates, while incoming transfers are included. This analysis covers the classes that would have graduated in the normal course in the years 2005 through 2008, assuming a five year track to graduation. The six-year periods for measuring graduation of these classes ended in the years 2006 through 2009.

Note on methodology regarding "graduation rate gaps": As noted above, this analysis generally uses Graduation Success Rates, rather than federal graduation rates. However, the NCAA publishes GSRs only for student-athletes, not for the overall student body. Graduation rates for the overall student body are reported only under the "federal graduation rate" method. This prevents a direct comparison between GSRs for student-athletes and GSRs for the overall student body. Because we used GSRs for student-athletes throughout our analysis, we decided for the sake of consistency to continue to use GSRs for student-athletes in calculating the "graduation rate gaps" between student-athletes and the overall student body. Thus, the "graduation rate gap" tables compare GSRs for student-athletes to federal graduation rates for the overall student body. We realize that this not an apples to apples comparison. But we believe the comparison is nonetheless informative. Because GSRs for student-athletes generally are higher than federal graduation rates, the "graduation rate gaps" we have identified generally are smaller than they would have been if we had used the federal graduation rates for both the student-athletes and the overall student body.

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