The Bootleg's Graduation Rate Analysis

As classes near in schools around the country, and football training camps hit high gear, we are reminded of the difficult balance that being a Division IA athlete presents in college. Our in-depth exploration of the latest graduation data from the NCAA unsurprisingly shows us that Stanford is almost unmatched in its ability to put diplomas in its student-athletes' hands, but far too many others lag woefully behind.

It's been a year since The Bootleg published its first graduation rate analysis. As we look forward to a new school year, it's time to take another look at graduation rates.

We've updated our analysis to take into account the graduation rates in the NCAA's most recent report. As we did last year, we've focussed on the Pac-10 schools, but we've also included some grad rates for other schools of interest to Stanford fans. In addition, we've reviewed all of the major schools' grad rates to compile lists of the top and bottom schools in each major sport. We've also identified the schools that have the biggest "graduation rate gaps," that is, the biggest differences between their athlete graduation rates and their graduation rates for the overall student body.

Our analysis is based on the combined graduation rates for the four most recent classes, so these results are not distorted by a single unusually good or bad year. Graduation is measured within six years after enrollment as a freshman.

So, here it is: The Bootleg's second annual graduation rate analysis.

FOOTBALL

Football Graduation Rates: Pac-10
Stanford82%
Oregon68%
USC65%
Arizona61%
UCLA61%
Washington60%
Washington St.54%
Cal49%
Arizona St.44%
Oregon St.35%

USC dropped a notch this year, falling from second place in the conference to third place behind Oregon. Arizona State climbed out of last place in the conference, thanks to Oregon State, which had a bad year and replaced Arizona State at the bottom. Cal continues to hold down the eighth position just ahead of Arizona State and Oregon State.

Football Graduation Rates: Selected Others
Notre Dame74%
Georgia59%
Texas50%
Florida48%
Michigan47%
Maryland45%
Colorado44%
Ohio State36%
Georgia Tech33%
San Jose St.33%

It's surprising to see how many good academic schools struggle to graduate 50% of their players. Like Cal in the Pac-10, Michigan and Texas hover around that 50% level. Ohio State graduates barely more than a third of its players, even with special oral exams for football players. Georgia Tech may have a decent academic reputation, but the reality is that two-thirds of its players never get a Georgia Tech degree.

Top Football Grad Rates: Division IA (80% or better)
Northwestern85%
Duke84%
Rice83%
Stanford82%
Vanderbilt80%
Tulane80%

There aren't a lot of surprises at the top of the list... these are the schools you would expect, based on their academic reputations. But only one of those "academic" schools has played in a BCS bowl and been ranked in the top 20 in the last five years. Hint: think "west coast."

Bottom Football Grad Rates: Division IA (30% or below)
BYU18%
UNLV19%
Oklahoma26%
Nevada27%
Arkansas28%
Houston28%
Louisiana Lafayette28%
Fresno St.29%
Middle Tennessee St.29%

BYU is affected by the number of players who take missions. If a player starts college, redshirts, then takes a two-year mission, it can take him seven years to graduate, which is outside the 6-year window used by the NCAA to measure graduation rates. But we don't think there are very many players from Oklahoma, Arkansas, or Fresno State taking missions.

Football Grad Rates for African American Players: Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasian
Stanford81%82%
Washington67%55%
UCLA66%60%
USC64%67%
Arizona59%64%
Oregon57%70%
Washington St.44%71%
Cal38%67%
Oregon St.29%52%
Arizona St.29%57%

The schools on the top half of this list don't have much of a difference in graduation rates between African American and Caucasian players. On the other hand, the schools on the bottom part of this list have a big graduation gap along racial lines. We would be interested in anything that can explain this gap.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Football Players and All Students (Difference of 20% or more): Division IA
 Football PlayersAll StudentsDifference
BYU18%71%-53%
Michigan47%83%-36%
Georgia Tech33%69%-36%
Cal49%83%-34%
Texas A&M38%71%-33%
Virginia Tech40%72%-32%
Rutgers42%73%-31%
Auburn37%66%-29%
Miami (Ohio)52%80%-28%
Wisconsin49%75%-26%
Missouri36%61%-25%
Michigan St.42%66%-24%
North Carolina56%80%-24%
Clemson47%71%-24%
Oklahoma26%49%-23%
Oregon St.35%57%-22%
Illinois55%77%-22%
Ohio State36%56%-20%
Pitt42%62%-20%
Iowa State42%62%-20%
Colorado44%64%-20%
Florida48%68%-20%
Notre Dame74%94%-20%

When we see a big difference in graduation rates between football players and all students, we begin to wonder: Are these schools giving their athletes adequate academic support? Are these schools delivering on the promise of an education? Are these schools enrolling athletes who don't belong at the school academically? As we've mentioned, BYU is an unusual case. But why are football players so far behind the rest of the student body at schools such as Michigan, Georgia Tech, Cal, Colorado and Notre Dame?

BASKETBALL

Basketball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford100%
UCLA36%
USC36%
Oregon33%
Washington St.33%
Arizona St.25%
Oregon St.23%
Washington22%
Arizona15%
Cal15%

Basketball graduation rates are rotten throughout the major conferences, and the Pac-10 is no exception. Aside from Stanford, not one Pac-10 team has graduated more than 36% of its basketball players. And it's not because so many players are leaving for the NBA, because there just aren't enough early NBA departures to explain these rates.

Basketball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Santa Clara85%
U. of San Diego83%
Duke73%
Kansas70%
Marquette69%
North Carolina67%
Gonzaga44%
Connecticut42%
Kentucky33%
Syracuse25%
Georgia Tech17%

Congrats to Santa Clara and to Stanford's first round tournament opponent last season, San Diego. But look at where the national champion, Syracuse, landed. Again, Georgia Tech is way down at the bottom of the list.

Top Basketball Grad Rates:
Major Conference Schools (80% or better)
Stanford100%
SMU90%
St. John's82%
Miami82%
Dayton80%

The list of major conference schools with an 80% grad rate is a short one. The most interesting name on the list is Miami. Miami's basketball grad rate (82%) proves that Miami can graduate its athletes when it tries. So what's the excuse for Miami's poor grad rates in football (46%) and baseball (20%)?

Bottom Basketball Grad Rates: 
Major Conference Schools (10% or below)
Oklahoma0%
Memphis0%
UNLV0%
Houston0%
New Mexico0%
Louisiana Tech8%
Minnesota9%
Arkansas10%
Missouri10%
Louisville10%

This is, in a word, horrible. And remember, these are four-class graduation rates, not just one unusual class.

Basketball Grad Rates for African American Players: Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasian
Stanford100%100%
Arizona St.40%0%
Washington St.33%33%
USC30%none
UCLA22%100%
Washington20%0%
Oregon14%100%
Cal13%25%
Oregon St.13%50%
Arizona9%50%

The Pac-10's graduation rates for African American players are even lower than the overall basketball graduation rates.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Basketball Players and All Students (Difference of 40% or more):
Major Conference Schools
 Basketball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Cal15%83%-68%
Michigan17%83%-66%
Georgia Tech17%69%-52%
Colorado13%64%-51%
Missouri10%61%-51%
Maryland14%64%-50%
Oklahoma0%49%-49%
Virginia44%92%-48%
Syracuse25%73%-48%
Washington22%70%-48%
Wake Forest38%85%-47%
Alabama13%58%-45%
UCLA36%80%-44%
Boston College43%86%-43%
Indiana25%67%-42%
Georgetown50%91%-41%
Hawaii13%54%-41%
Minnesota9%50%-41%
Louisiana Tech8%49%-41%
Clemson31%71%-40%
TCU23%63%-40%
Miami (Ohio)40%80%-40%

The graduation rate gaps between athletes and all students are much bigger in basketball than in football. We note that Michigan, Cal and Georgia Tech have the some of the biggest graduation rate "gaps" in both basketball and football.

BASEBALL

Baseball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford79%
UCLA48%
USC43%
Washington40%
Washington St.38%
Cal36%
Arizona St.33%
Arizona25%
Oregon St.25%
Oregonno team

Grad rates in major baseball conferences are almost as bad as in basketball. In the Pac-10, only Stanford graduates even half of its baseball players.

Baseball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Santa Clara85%
LSU43%
Georgia Tech31%
Texas31%
Cal State Fullerton24%
Clemson23%
Nebraska22%
San Jose St.22%
Miami20%
Florida St.13%

The major baseball schools have awful graduation rates. The excuse that may be offered is that the baseball draft takes so many juniors, which hurts graduation rates. That's a factor, of course. But Stanford loses lots of juniors to the draft and still manages a 79% graduation rate. There just aren't enough players lost to the draft to explain the low graduation rates on this list.

Top Baseball Grad Rates: Major Conference Schools
(75% or better)
Duke89%
Boston College80%
Northwestern80%
Stanford79%
Wake Forest76%
Iowa76%

Stanford shows that it's possible to win and graduate your players in baseball, just as it's possible in football and basketball.

Bottom Baseball Grad Rates: Major Conference Schools
(20% or below)
Long Beach St.5%
Houston11%
Fresno St.11%
Florida St.13%
Oklahoma St.17%
Kentucky19%
Miami20%
Georgia20%

Long Beach State has a great baseball program. But maybe they should just become a minor league franchise. They would graduate almost as many players as they do now. Florida State and Miami are other notables at the top of the baseball polls and the bottom of the grad rate list.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Baseball Players and All Students (Difference of 25% or more):
Major Conference Schools
 Baseball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Florida St.13%62%-49%
Clemson23%71%-48%
Cal36%83%-47%
Georgia20%66%-46%
Vanderbilt40%83%-43%
Miami20%62%-42%
BYU30%71%-41%
Alabama18%58%-40%
Georgia Tech31%69%-38%
North Carolina St.25%62%-37%
Kentucky19%54%-35%
Iowa St.28%62%-34%
UCLA48%80%-32%
Oregon St.25%57%-32%
Fresno St.11%42%-31%
Arizona25%54%-29%
USC43%72%-29%
Nebraska22%50%-28%
Auburn39%66%-27%
Long Beach St.5%32%-27%
Florida42%68%-26%
Houston11%36%-25%
Rice65%90%-25%

There's a distinctly southern and southeastern slant at the top of this graduation rate "gap" list. This list shows that many of the major baseball powers are willing to tolerate low grad rates so long as they win.

ALL STUDENT-ATHLETES

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Pac-10
Stanford89%
Oregon67%
Washington66%
UCLA62%
USC61%
Cal60%
Washington St.58%
Arizona53%
Oregon St.51%
Arizona St.50%

There's a bigger gap between the first and second schools on this list than between the second and tenth schools on the list.

Top Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Conference Schools
(80% or better)
Northwestern90%
Stanford89%
Duke89%
Notre Dame85%
Rice84%
Boston College80%
Virginia80%

This list looks about like you would expect. Stanford is close to the top spot -- maybe next year. This list is slightly different from the list that was shown on ESPN during the college world series because ESPN used only the most recent year's graduation rates, while these are combined graduation rates for the last four classes.

Bottom Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Conference Schools
(45% or below)
Houston32%
UNLV37%
Oklahoma St.37%
Nevada38%
Oklahoma43%
Arkansas44%
Louisville44%
Eastern Michigan44%
New Mexico45%

What's going on in the states of Oklahoma and Nevada?

Grad Rates for African American Athletes (All Sports): Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasian
Stanford83%89%
Washington60%67%
USC58%64%
UCLA57%63%
Arizona52%55%
Oregon49%73%
Washington St.42%65%
Cal40%67%
Arizona St.31%53%
Oregon St.30%58%

Again, the schools at the top of the list don't show much difference in grad rates along racial lines, while the schools in the bottom part of the list have a notable gap.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between All Athletes and All Students (Difference of 11% or more): Major Conference Schools
 All AthletesAll StudentsDifference
Cal60%83%-23%
BYU48%71%-23%
UCLA62%80%-18%
Clemson54%71%-17%
Florida51%68%-17%
Georgia Tech53%69%-16%
Michigan69%83%-14%
Oklahoma St.37%50%-13%
Texas A&M58%71%-13%
Texas56%68%-12%
Virginia80%92%-12%
USC61%72%-11%
Virginia Tech61%72%-11%
Wake Forest74%85%-11%
Illinois66%77%-11%
Wisconsin64%75%-11%

The biggest gap in the nation between athlete grad rates and overall student body grad rates is right here in the Bay Area . . . for the second straight year, it's Cal!

Notes on the data:

All figures are taken from the NCAA 2002 Graduation Rates Report. This report measures the percentage of scholarship athletes who graduated from each school within 6 years after enrolling as freshmen at that school. Scholarship athletes who transfer into the school are not counted in this report. (There is a separate report for incoming transfers.) Scholarship athletes who transfer out are counted as non-graduates of the school. The NCAA report uses the same method that is used by the Department of Education and by the "Common Data Set" published by all colleges, which forms the basis for the published graduation rates that appear in college guides, college brochures, the U.S. News survey, and so forth.

The graduation rates used in this analysis are combined graduation rates for the four classes that entered school as freshmen from 1992-93 through 1995-96. Those athletes would have been in the graduating classes of 1996 through 2000 on a normal 4 to 5 year track. We have used the four-class graduation rates rather than the most recent one-class graduation rates because the one-class rates are subject to wide fluctuations from year to year. The four-class rates give a better picture of the overall graduation performance of each school.


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