The Bootleg's Graduation Rate Analysis

You have read many comments from recruits on the purported strength of numerous Division I-A schools in the academic support they offer their student-athletes. In reality, many schools near and far are shameful in their inability to graduate their players, including a widespread racial gap between student-athlete groups. We pull back the curtain with the newest data from the NCAA.

For our previous Graduation Rate Analyses:

Click here for The Bootleg's 2007 analysis
Click here for The Bootleg's 2006 analysis
Click here for The Bootleg's 2005 analysis
Click here for The Bootleg's 2004 analysis
Click here for The Bootleg's 2003 analysis
Click here for The Bootleg's 2002 analysis

The Bootleg is pleased to present its seventh annual analysis of student-athlete graduation rates.

The Bootleg has broken down the graduation rate numbers recently released by the NCAA in its 2007 graduation rate report. The Bootleg's analysis focuses on the three major sports: football, basketball, and baseball. We also take a look at overall graduation rates for all student-athletes.

While The Bootleg's analysis continues to focus on the Pac-10 schools, we've expanded our coverage of other conferences this year by adding a new feature: conference-by-conference summaries of graduation rates in football and basketball for all of the major conferences.

As in the past, we've reviewed the graduation rates for all of the major programs across the nation to compile lists of the top 10 and bottom 10 grad rates in each major sport. We've also taken a look at graduation rates for African American student-athletes in football and basketball. In addition, we've once again compiled lists of the biggest "graduation rate gaps" between major sport student-athlete graduation rates and overall student body graduation rates.

The Bootleg's analysis uses the NCAA's new "Graduation Success Rates" (GSRs). The NCAA introduced the Graduation Success Rates two years ago. Previously, the NCAA used the same standard graduation rate methodology that is used by colleges and universities for non-athletic purposes (sometimes called the "federal graduation rate" because it is required by the Department of Education). The Graduation Success Rate changed the way transfers are counted. The GSR does not penalize schools for outgoing transfers; rather, the GSR excludes outgoing transfers from the graduation rate calculation so long as they were academically eligible. The GSR also adds incoming transfers to each school's graduation rate data.

The adoption of the GSR method has resulted in an increase in reported graduation rates. For all Division I student-athletes in all sports combined, the overall student-athlete graduation rate this year is 77% under the new GSR method, compared to 62% under the federal graduation rate method.

The NCAA's Graduation Success Rates are based on the combined graduation rates for the four most recent classes for which data are available. The classes covered by the most recent NCAA report are the classes that would have graduated in the years 2002 through 2005, assuming a five-year track. The graduation rates represent the percentage of student-athletes who graduated within six years after enrollment as freshmen.

FOOTBALL

Football Graduation Rates: Pac-10
Stanford93%
Washington64%
Oregon St.62%
Washington St.58%
USC57%
UCLA56%
Oregon55%
Arizona St.55%
Cal52%
Arizona41%

Stanford continues to have the leading football graduation rate in the Pac-10. Aside from Stanford, the Pac-10 schools do not have good football graduation rates. Nine of the Pac-10 schools have football graduation rates below the overall Division I-A average of 67%. With the benefit of the new method for calculating graduation rates, Cal has edged above 50% for the first time in the seven years we've been doing this analysis. That leaves Arizona all alone down at the bottom of the conference.

A word in anticipation of the inevitable grousing by Cal fans: We're aware that Cal's graduation rates supposedly have improved in years later than those covered by the current NCAA report. We're glad to hear that Cal finally is doing something about its low football grad rates after so many years. Cal will get any kudos it has earned when the improvement shows up in future graduation rate reports. For now, the numbers in the current NCAA report reflect Cal's graduation rate performance in the recent past. The low graduation rates in this report are based on the classes that would have graduated (or not graduated, as the case may be) in the years 2002 through 2005 on a five-year track. Cal is serving its time in the penalty box based on the performance of those classes. If Cal didn't want to receive publicity for low graduation rates, it shouldn't have let its grad rates drop so low.

Football Graduation Rates: Big Ten
Northwestern94%
Penn St.76%
Illinois73%
Iowa73%
Michigan73%
Purdue70%
Indiana67%
Wisconsin61%
Ohio St.53%
Minnesota49%
Michigan St.43%

It's no surprise to see Northwestern on top of the Big Ten. It is somewhat of a surprise to see Wisconsin straggling along in the lower tier. Wisconsin is a good school and could do better. And what's the story at Michigan State, anyway?

Football Graduation Rates: SEC
Vanderbilt91%
Florida72%
South Carolina68%
Mississippi64%
Kentucky59%
Auburn59%
Mississippi St.59%
Arkansas53%
Tennessee52%
LSU51%
Alabama49%
Georgia41%

Vanderbilt is well ahead of the rest of the SEC in graduation rates. Florida, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, is second with 72%, in the same range as schools such as Michigan and Illinois. However, Florida's good GSR masks the fact that Florida has very large numbers of outgoing transfers. Because of the transfers, Florida's federal graduation rate is only 35%. Georgia lags well behind the rest of the SEC – not that we expect too many Georgia fans to care.

Football Graduation Rates: Big 12
Baylor84%
Nebraska83%
Texas Tech79%
Kansas St.73%
Colorado68%
Oklahoma St.64%
Texas A&M62%
Missouri60%
Kansas56%
Iowa St.55%
Oklahoma44%
Texas42%

Nebraska gave Baylor a serious run for the top spot in the Big 12. Kudos to the Cornhuskers. Oklahoma and Texas bring up the rear, which isn't too surprising – and they're a long way behind the rest of the pack.

Football Graduation Rates: ACC
Boston College93%
Duke93%
Wake Forest90%
North Carolina79%
Clemson75%
Virginia Tech72%
Miami70%
Maryland69%
Virginia68%
North Carolina St.60%
Florida St.58%
Georgia Tech51%

Graduation rates in the ACC generally are quite strong. Three ACC schools are among the national leaders, and nine of the twelve ACC schools have graduation rates that exceed the Division I-A average of 67%. That's impressive.

Football Graduation Rates: Big East
Connecticut78%
Syracuse71%
Cincinnati67%
West Virginia65%
Pittsburgh63%
South Florida61%
Rutgers55%
Louisville55%

Is it just us, or is the Big East kind of boring? The Big East's football graduation rates are unexceptional on both ends – there aren't any exceptionally high or low graduation rates. We would have guessed that Syracuse would lead the conference, so seeing Connecticut on top of the list was somewhat of a surprise to us.

Top 10 Football Grad Rates: Division I-A
Navy95%
Northwestern94%
Stanford93%
Boston College93%
Duke93%
Notre Dame93%
Air Force92%
Vanderbilt91%
Wake Forest90%
Army87%

For the third straight year, Navy leads the nation in football graduation rates. The top 10 list is filled with the usual suspects – the service academies and a number of the top academic schools in Division I-A.

Bottom 10 Football Grad Rates: Division I-A
San Jose St.36%
Georgia41%
Arizona41%
Texas42%
Michigan St.43%
Oklahoma44%
Hawaii45%
Central Florida46%
Temple47%
UAB48%

San Jose State holds down the bottom spot for the second year in a row. Schools such as Texas, Georgia, and Arizona have become regulars in the bottom 10. And remember, these are the new Graduation Success Rates – outgoing transfers aren't included in the analysis, so these low grad rates can't be blamed on transfers. If we had looked at federal graduation rates, Texas would look even worse – the federal graduation rate at Texas is a mere 32%, the second worst in the nation.

Grad Rates for African American Football Players: Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasianDifference
Stanford91%97%-6%
Washington56%65%-9%
Arizona St.53%64%-11%
USC53%59%-6%
Cal49%58%-9%
Oregon St.47%72%-25%
Washington St.45%86%-41%
UCLA43%70%-27%
Oregon41%78%-37%
Arizona27%52%-25%

There continue to be significant gaps at some schools between grad rates for white athletes and grad rates for African American athletes. In the Pac-10, half of the schools have gaps of 25 percentage points or more. We know we've said this before, but we continue to be puzzled by the fact that nobody seems to be paying attention to the big racial disparities in graduation rates at schools such as UCLA, Oregon, and Washington State. And it's simply unacceptable that Arizona graduates only 27% of its African American football players.

Grad Rates for African American Football Players: Selected Others
 African AmericanCaucasianDifference
Florida64%86%-22%
Miami63%88%-25%
Illinois61%84%-23%
Michigan56%92%-36%
Auburn47%84%-37%
Missouri47%81%-34%
Ohio St.43%74%-31%
LSU42%70%-28%
Alabama41%73%-32%
Arkansas35%88%-53%
Georgia Tech34%81%-47%
Texas30%67%-37%
Georgia29%67%-38%

Racial gaps are pervasive at major football schools. The schools listed above are just a sample. We could have made a much longer list. When schools such as Georgia and Texas graduate two-thirds of their white football players, but only 29%-30% of their African American football players, something has gone badly wrong. We have to question whether those schools are doing everything they can to support their African American players.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Football Players and All Students
BCS Conference Schools
(Difference of 15% or more)
 Football PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Cal52%87%-35%
Georgia41%73%-32%
Texas42%74%-32%
UCLA56%88%-32%
Michigan St.43%72%-29%
USC57%82%-25%
Virginia68%92%-24%
Georgia Tech51%74%-23%
Rutgers55%72%-17%
Arizona41%57%-16%
Wisconsin61%77%-16%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps,"
see the note at the end of the analysis.

There are a few schools at which the football graduation rates fall considerably short of the overall student body graduation rates, even giving the football players the benefit of the new GSR method. You could think of this "graduation rate gap" as an indication of the extent to which a school has compromised its academic standards. The same schools show up on this list every year. This year, once again, Cal is right there at the top.


BASKETBALL

Basketball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Washington70%
Stanford67%
Oregon59%
Oregon St.50%
Arizona St.42%
UCLA40%
Washington St.35%
Cal33%
USC29%
Arizona25%

Stanford's graduation rate in basketball used to be consistently above 90%. Now, for the second year in a row, Stanford's basketball grad rate has dropped below 70%. The decline reflects the class including Casey Jacobsen and Curtis Borchardt, both of whom departed early for the NBA. Another member of that class apparently finished his degree outside the six-year window used for measuring graduation rates, and therefore counts as a non-graduate for statistical purposes. Unfortunately, that class will continue to affect Stanford's reported graduation rate for the next two years.

In general, Pac-10 basketball graduation rates are quite low. Eight of the 10 programs have basketball grad rates below the aggregate Division I basketball GSR of 61%, and four schools have graduation rates of 35% or lower.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big Ten
Purdue91%
Northwestern89%
Illinois80%
Indiana78%
Michigan St.67%
Wisconsin67%
Penn St.64%
Michigan57%
Iowa47%
Ohio St.40%
Minnesota38%

Very nice job by Purdue, edging out Northwestern for top grad rate honors in the Big Ten. Ohio State and Minnesota, which had two of the three lowest football grad rates in the conference, also bring up the rear in basketball.

Basketball Graduation Rates: SEC
Florida100%
Vanderbilt83%
Alabama80%
Mississippi St.75%
South Carolina70%
Mississippi55%
Arkansas50%
Auburn50%
LSU38%
Tennessee33%
Kentucky23%
Georgia19%

We have to tip our caps to Florida, which turned in another perfect graduation rate this year. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future, when Florida's grad rates begin to include the players on Florida's recent national championship team. Just as Georgia was at the bottom of the conference in football, so it is in basketball.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big 12
Oklahoma St.73%
Kansas St.67%
Baylor58%
Colorado55%
Missouri50%
Nebraska47%
Oklahoma46%
Kansas45%
Texas Tech44%
Texas A&M40%
Texas33%
Iowa St.17%

We went back to our 2004 graduation rate analysis and found that Kansas had a 73% graduation rate, which is pretty good for a top program. Since then, Kansas' grad rate has been dropping, settling in the 45% range for the last couple of years. Not a good trend. But Kansas isn't near the bottom of the conference yet, thanks to several Texas schools and the abysmal performance of Iowa State. Maybe Larry Eustachy should have spent some time hitting the books with his players instead of partying with co-eds.

Basketball Graduation Rates: ACC
Wake Forest100%
Florida St.100%
North Carolina86%
Virginia80%
Miami73%
Duke67%
Virginia Tech67%
Boston College64%
Georgia Tech42%
North Carolina St.40%
Clemson31%
Maryland0%

There's some of everything in the ACC, all the way from the 100% grad rates at Wake Forest and, surprisingly, Florida State to the appalling 0% grad rate at Maryland. In case anyone is wondering, yes, that 0% grad rate at Maryland includes the players on Maryland's 2002 national championship team.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big East
Notre Dame91%
Marquette89%
Villanova89%
Georgetown82%
Providence67%
Syracuse67%
Seton Hall60%
South Florida58%
Pittsburgh56%
St. John's56%
Cincinnati50%
Louisville50%
Rutgers50%
DePaul36%
West Virginia33%
Connecticut22%

Connecticut may have a history of recent success in basketball, but it came with a price – the Huskies have one of the worst graduation rates in the nation. The top portion of the Big East's graduation rate list is dominated by Catholic schools.

Basketball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Butler92%
Xavier90%
St. Joseph's75%
Santa Clara69%
BYU67%
Gonzaga63%
George Mason53%
Drake50%
Memphis40%
St. Mary's38%
Rhode Island38%
Fresno St.25%
UNLV15%

Congrats to Butler and Xavier, both of which have combined success on the court with high graduation rates.

Top 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Wake Forest100%
Florida100%
Florida St.100%
Butler92%
Notre Dame91%
Purdue91%
Air Force91%
Xavier90%
Northwestern89%
Marquette89%
Villanova89%

Wake Forest and Florida had 100% graduation rates for the third straight year, which is excellent. The state of Indiana is well represented here, with three schools in the top seven on our list.

Bottom 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Maryland0%
UNLV15%
Iowa St.17%
Georgia19%
Connecticut22%
New Mexico23%
Kentucky23%
Fresno St.25%
Arizona25%
USC29%

Georgia and Arizona managed to make the "Bottom 10" graduation rate list in both basketball and football. At least they're consistent.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Basketball Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 30% or more)
 Basketball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Maryland0%75%-75%
Cal33%87%-54%
Georgia19%73%-54%
USC29%82%-53%
Connecticut22%72%-50%
Iowa St.17%67%-50%
UCLA40%88%-48%
Clemson31%74%-43%
Texas33%74%-41%
Kentucky23%60%-37%
Texas A&M40%76%-36%
Arizona25%57%-32%
Georgia Tech42%74%-32%
TCU35%67%-32%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps,"
see the note at the end of the analysis.

Basketball is the sport with the biggest graduation rate gaps. Differences are bigger in basketball than in football partly because rosters are smaller, which creates smaller sample sizes and wider variations. But we also suspect that there are more basketball players who aren't legitimate students, players who are just majoring in eligibility – and failing. Note that the Pac-10 has four schools on this list.


BASEBALL

Baseball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford96%
Washington St.86%
Cal78%
Washington71%
UCLA62%
Arizona52%
USC50%
Oregon St.47%
Arizona St.36%
Oregonno team

Despite losing more than its share of juniors to the major league draft, Stanford has pushed its baseball graduation rate up to 96%. Stanford coach Mark Marquess deserves credit for working with his players to get ahead of schedule academically. That gives them a realistic chance of getting a degree even if they are drafted as juniors. Some of Marquess' players are able to graduate from college early, while others return to finish their degree work. For example, Chad Hutchinson came back and got his degree after his major league career ended.

Baseball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Rice93%
Clemson88%
Florida St.82%
Tulane78%
Santa Clara73%
Miami69%
Long Beach St.67%
Division I average66%
Nebraska63%
South Carolina63%
Georgia61%
Georgia Tech61%
Texas49%
LSU44%
San Jose St.42%
Cal State Fullerton32%

Baseball graduation rates get a considerable boost from the fact that transfers are excluded from the calculation of the Graduation Success Rate. The overall Division I baseball graduation rate under the new Graduation Success Rate method is 66%, while the overall baseball grad rate under the old federal graduation rate method is just 45%. This is a bigger difference than the differences we see in football or basketball, which suggests that there is a higher transfer rate in baseball.

Some schools that have big differences between their Graduation Success Rate and their federal graduation rate, and which therefore appear to have particularly high transfer rates, are Clemson (88% Graduation Success Rate vs. 40% federal graduation rate), Georgia (61% GSR vs. 23% federal grad rate), Long Beach State (67% GSR vs. 27% federal grad rate), Florida (71% GSR vs. 26% federal grad rate), and South Carolina (63% GSR vs. 28% federal grad rate).

Top 10 Baseball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Vanderbilt100%
Northwestern100%
Boston College100%
Notre Dame100%
U. of San Diego100%
Stanford96%
Duke95%
Rice93%
Michigan90%
Iowa89%
Clemson88%

The University of San Diego has built a strong baseball program in the last few years. It will be interesting to see whether San Diego can maintain its high graduation rates while maintaining a high quality program.

Bottom 10 Baseball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Cal State Fullerton32%
Auburn34%
Arizona St.36%
North Carolina St.39%
Iowa St.42%
San Jose St.42%
LSU44%
Fresno St.44%
Wichita St.45%
Oregon St.47%
Missouri47%
UNLV47%

There are a lot of programs on the "Bottom 10" list that have been very successful over the years – LSU, Cal State Fullerton, Arizona State, and most recently Oregon State have won NCAA championships. But their graduation rates are far from championship caliber.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Baseball Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 20% or more)
 Baseball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
USC50%82%-32%
Auburn34%64%-30%
North Carolina St.39%68%-29%
UCLA62%88%-26%
Texas49%74%-25%
Iowa St.42%67%-25%
Texas A&M54%76%-22%
Missouri47%67%-20%
Maryland55%75%-20%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps,"
see the note at the end of the analysis.

Texas, USC, and UCLA all scored the hat trick: they made all three "graduation rate gap" lists (football, basketball, and baseball). When the athletes in multiple sports are falling far short of the graduation rates for the overall student body, there would appear to be a systemic problem.


ALL STUDENT-ATHLETES

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Pac-10
Stanford94%
Washington81%
Oregon St.75%
Cal75%
UCLA73%
Washington St.72%
Oregon70%
Arizona St.68%
USC68%
Arizona63%

Despite a strong grad rate for Stanford and a solid grad rate for Washington, the Pac-10's student-athlete graduation rates are not impressive. Eight of the 10 schools in the conference have student-athlete GSRs below the Division I average of 77%.

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Selected Others
Florida89%
Penn St.88%
Michigan83%
Miami83%
Wisconsin78%
Florida St.78%
Nebraska77%
Ohio St.77%
Division I average77%
Tennessee75%
Texas74%
Alabama73%
Georgia Tech69%
LSU69%
Oklahoma65%
Georgia65%

Student-athletes in the minor sports tend to have higher graduation rates than student-athletes in the major sports. For example, male student-athletes in Division I sports other than football, basketball, baseball, and track/cross-country have an overall Graduation Success Rate of 80%, compared to Graduation Success Rates of 67% for football, 61% for men's basketball, and 66% for baseball. Likewise, women have higher graduation rates than men – female Division I student-athletes have an 87% Graduation Success Rate, compared to 70% for male student-athletes. So, women and minor sport athletes pull up overall student-athlete graduation rates. Even so, there still are some schools that can't manage to graduate two-thirds of their student-athletes.

Top 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
Navy98%
Northwestern98%
Notre Dame98%
Duke97%
Boston College96%
Stanford94%
Vanderbilt94%
Wake Forest93%
Army93%
Air Force93%

Does this list seem familiar? It should. These are the same schools we saw on the top 10 list for football graduation rates, in a slightly different order. Schools that do a good job graduating football players also do a good job with overall student-athlete graduation rates.

Bottom 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
San Jose St.50%
UTEP51%
Arizona63%
Fresno St.63%
UNLV63%
Houston63%
New Mexico64%
Oklahoma65%
Georgia65%
Hawaii65%

In general, the lowest graduation rates in Division I are at minor conference schools. The only major conference programs that are on the bottom 10 grad rate list for all student-athletes are Arizona, Oklahoma, and Georgia.

Grad Rates for African American Athletes (All Sports): Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasianDifference
Stanford86%97%-11%
UCLA61%81%-20%
Cal60%79%-19%
Arizona St.57%71%-14%
Washington57%86%-29%
USC56%74%-18%
Washington St.52%82%-30%
Oregon51%81%-30%
Oregon St.49%79%-30%
Arizona38%74%-36%

Five Pac-10 schools have gaps of 29 percentage points or more between their grad rate for African American athletes and their grad rate for white athletes. It's hard to think of a good reason for a gap of that size.

Grad Rates for African American Athletes (All Sports): Selected Others
 African AmericanCaucasianDifference
Duke87%98%-11%
Florida82%91%-9%
Virginia69%90%-21%
Nebraska63%84%-21%
Tennessee59%82%-23%
Ohio St.58%81%-23%
Michigan58%88%-30%
Oklahoma52%72%-20%
Texas51%80%-29%
Alabama50%81%-31%
Michigan St.50%87%-37%
Arkansas42%77%-35%
Georgia39%81%-42%
Iowa St.36%78%-42%

For Division I as a whole, the graduation rate for African American student-athletes is 61%, while the grad rate for Caucasian student-athletes is 83% -- a gap of 22 percentage points.

Source: All figures are taken from the NCAA 2007 Graduation Success Rates Report and the NCAA 2007 Federal Graduation Rates 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. Outgoing transfers in good academic standing are excluded from the Graduation Success Rates; incoming transfers are included. This analysis covers the classes that would have graduated in the years 2002 through 2005, assuming a five year track to graduation. The six-year periods for measuring graduation of these classes ended in the years 2003 through 2006.

Note on methodology regarding "graduation rate gaps": As noted above, this analysis generally uses the NCAA's new Graduation Success Rates, rather than the 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 means we can't make 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 the grad rates for student-athletes and the grad rates for the overall student body. Thus, the "graduation rate gap" tables compare GSRs for student-athletes in various sports to federal graduation rates for the overall student body. We realize that this not an apples to apples comparison, but we believe it is nonetheless informative. Because GSRs for student-athletes generally are higher than federal graduation rates for student-athletes, the "graduation rate gaps" we have identified generally are somewhat smaller than they would have been had we used the student-athletes' federal graduation rates.


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