NCAA athletes improve overall graduation rates

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | 3:08 p.m. CDT

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA said Wednesday that college athletes are graduating at record rates and the latest numbers show major improvement among football and some men's basketball players.

The annual Graduation Success Rate shows 79 percent of all athletes entering college between 2000-01 and 2003-04 earned degrees within six years, matching last year's record mark. The freshman class of 2003-04 also graduated at a rate of 79 percent, matching the record of the past two years.

Federal numbers show the 2003-04 class graduated at a higher rate, 64 percent, than the overall student body, 63 percent. The NCAA's numbers are higher than those released by the federal government because the NCAA data accounts for transfer students who earn degrees. The federal rate does not.

The graduation rate for football players jumped to 69 percent for players who entered college in 2003-04 from 66 percent in the last report.

And while the overall men's basketball number, 66 percent, was the same as last year, the number of black basketball players who graduated increased three points from 2009, going to a record-high 60.

That's a 14-point jump since the NCAA first started calculating graduation rates nine years ago.

Additional data shows graduation rates at 18 of the top 25 schools in the BCS standings were at least 60 percent under the four-year measures. Stanford (86 percent), Miami (81 percent), Iowa and Virginia Tech (79) and Missouri (71) posted the best scores. Only two schools, Oklahoma (44) and Arizona (48), fell below 50 percent in both measures.

But in men's basketball, 12 of the teams in the final Top 25 poll produced graduation rates of 50 percent or worse under NCAA calculations. Four schools scored in the 30s — California (30), Connecticut (31), Michigan and Georgia Tech (36). Villanova and Illinois each had perfect scores, 100 percent.

Duke, the national champion, and Butler, the national runner-up, were both at 83 percent.

The 2003-04 freshman class was the first to be subjected to academic reforms adopted during the late Myles Brand's tenure — the Academic Progress Rate, new eligibility standards for freshman and more stringent requirements to tie athletic eligibility to making progress toward their degrees.

NCAA officials said then they hoped the changes would force athletes to perform as well in the classroom as they do on the playing field.

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