The Bootleg's Graduation Rate Analysis

Who made the grade?

For the fourth straight year, we are honored to bring you an exhuastive analysis of the NCAA's most recent graduation rate data for Division IA student-athletes. The NCAA's data takes on extra meaning this year, as they are an important component in the new "Academic Performance Ratings" - about to be released. College athletics will change once schools with low APRs have scholarships taken away...

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 annual analysis of student-athlete graduation rates.

The NCAA publishes an annual report of graduation rates, but that report is limited to raw data, with no comparison or analysis. Taking the NCAA report as our starting place, we're bringing our readers the story behind the numbers.

We've reviewed all of the major conference schools' grad rates to compile lists of the top and bottom grad rates in each major sport. In addition, we've identified the schools that have the biggest "graduation rate gaps," that is, the biggest differences between their student-athlete graduation rates and their graduation rates for the overall student body. You won't find this analysis anywhere else. These are Bootleg exclusives.

As in previous years, we've focused on the Pac-10 schools, but we've also included some grad rates for other schools of interest to our readers. We've used the NCAA's most recent graduation rates report. The grad rates in The Bootleg's analysis are the combined graduation rates for the four most recent classes. Those classes would have graduated in the years 1999 through 2002, assuming a five year track to graduation.

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

FOOTBALL

Football Graduation Rates: Pac-10
Stanford85%
Oregon68%
Washington63%
USC58%
Washington State57%
UCLA55%
California48%
Arizona State44%
Oregon State44%
Arizona43%

Arizona has tumbled all the way down to last place in Pac-10 football graduation rates, dropping from 61% two years ago (4th in the conference) to 43% this year. Oregon State improved from 35% last year to 44%, barely climbing out of the cellar. After edging up to 50% last year, Cal dropped down below the half-and-half mark once again this year. We keep hearing from Cal fans that Cal's grad rates are on the verge of improvement, but it never seems to show up in the numbers.

Football Graduation Rates: Selected Others
Notre Dame77%
Nebraska63%
Michigan57%
Miami57%
Illinois56%
Wisconsin56%
Georgia53%
Ohio State52%
Alabama49%
Florida St.49%
Georgia Tech49%
Florida42%
LSU42%
Oklahoma40%
Tennessee38%
Texas34%

Texas, which had a 50% graduation rate just two years ago, has been rapidly sliding to the bottom, and now has one of the lowest graduation rates in Division IA. Ohio State and Georgia Tech, on the other hand, have pulled their grad rates up from the 33% range to the 50% neighborhood over the last two years.

Football Grad Rates for African American Players: Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasian
Stanford84%89%
Washington66%67%
USC52%65%
Oregon52%79%
UCLA47%66%
Washington State44%70%
Cal42%59%
Oregon State40%50%
Arizona State34%59%
Arizona34%54%

What's wrong with this picture? Nine of the schools in the Pac-10 conference graduate more than 53% of their white football players, but only two of them graduate more than 53% of their African American players. All of the schools except Stanford, Washington, and maybe Oregon State have notable racial disparities in their football graduation rates.

Football Grad Rates for African American Players: Selected Others
 African AmericanCaucasian
Michigan47%70%
Florida State43%71%
Illinois43%76%
Georgia40%73%
Auburn40%74%
Iowa38%64%
LSU35%61%
Clemson35%77%
Colorado State32%63%
Tennessee30%67%
Colorado29%60%
Arkansas21%60%

These schools have some of the biggest racial gaps in their football grad rates. It's difficult to think of a reasonable explanation for these gaps.

Top 5 Football Grad Rates Division IA
Vanderbilt88%
Rice88%
Stanford85%
Duke85%
Northwestern83%
Wake Forest83%

There are no real surprises on the list of schools with the best graduation rates. Congratulations to Vandy and Rice for taking top honors. This year, Wake Forest has moved up into the top group.

Bottom 5 Football Grad Rates Division IA
BYU19%
UNLV25%
San Jose State25%
Middle Tennessee State30%
Pittsburgh31%

BYU's football grad rate takes a hit from the number of players who take LDS missions. A player who takes a two-year mission after starting college and who also redshirts usually will not graduate within the six year window used for purposes of the graduation rate stats. BYU, UNLV, San Jose State, and Middle Tennessee State all appeared on this list last year.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Football Players and All Students (Difference of 20% or more) Division IA
 Football PlayersAll StudentsDifference
BYU19%72%-53%
Cal48%84%-36%
Texas34%70%-36%
Pittsburgh31%63%-32%
Florida42%73%-31%
UCLA55%83%-28%
Michigan57%84%-27%
North Carolina53%80%-27%
Miami (Ohio)53%80%-27%
Michigan State41%68%-27%
Rutgers49%73%-24%
Illinois56%79%-23%
Texas A&M50%73%-23%
Colorado43%66%-23%
Kentucky36%58%-22%
Tennessee38%58%-20%
North Carolina State42%62%-20%
Missouri44%64%-20%
Clemson51%71%-20%
Wisconsin56%76%-20%

The graduation rate gap is one way of describing the difference between a school's overall student body and the student-athletes in its football program. Aside from BYU, which is affected by the number of players who take missions and redshirt, the schools with the biggest graduation rate gaps are Cal and Texas. Most of the regular students who enroll in those schools can expect to end up with a degree, but football players cannot share that same expectation.

BASKETBALL

Basketball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford92%
Washington State50%
Washington45%
Oregon33%
UCLA33%
Arizona25%
USC20%
Arizona State17%
Oregon State15%
Cal0%

Cal has had low basketball graduation rates for years, but this year, Cal finally has hit bottom: not one of the scholarship basketball players who enrolled as freshmen at Cal over a four year period actually graduated from Cal.

Basketball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Santa Clara77%
St. Joseph's70%
North Carolina67%
Michigan State64%
Kansas60%
Duke58%
Iowa55%
Syracuse53%
Illinois47%
Wake Forest44%
Gonzaga43%
Connecticut27%
Maryland25%
Georgia Tech19%
Kentucky8%

Basketball graduation rates are generally lower than football graduation rates. Notice that Duke, which often gets props for upholding academic standards, actually has a lower basketball grad rate than some other major programs, including Kansas, Michigan St., and North Carolina.

Top 5 Basketball Grad Rates Major Conference Schools
Stanford92%
SMU82%
Santa Clara77%
Mississippi State75%
Marquette75%

We stretched the definition of "major conference schools" a little bit so that we could find five schools with graduation rates of 75% or better. We were expecting Stanford to top the list, of course, even though Stanford has fallen below the 100% level for the first time in years. But we were taken by surprise when we saw Mississippi State in the top five in basketball graduation rates. Who knew?

Bottom 5 Basketball Grad Rates Major Conference Schools
Cal0%
LSU0%
Minnesota0%
San Jose State0%
Kentucky8%

Basketball grad rates in general are low, but these schools are the lowest. Four universities managed to bring in four consecutive recruiting classes without graduating a single one of those players. Accompanying Cal in the Hall of Shame are LSU, Minnesota, and San Jose State. Oddly, four of the Bay Area's basketball programs appear on either the "Top 5" list or the "Bottom 5" list – two on each list.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Basketball Players and All Students (Difference of 40% or more) Major Conference Schools
 Basketball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Cal0%84%-84%
Michigan27%84%-57%
USC20%76%-56%
Texas A&M17%73%-56%
LSU0%55%-55%
Northwestern38%92%-54%
Minnesota0%52%-52%
UCLA33%83%-50%
Kentucky8%58%-50%
Georgia Tech19%68%-49%
Boston College38%87%-49%
Pitt15%63%-48%
Rutgers25%73%-48%
DePaul14%61%-47%
Providence38%85%-47%
Virginia46%92%-46%
Georgetown47%93%-46%
Colorado21%66%-45%
Oregon St.15%59%-44%
Oklahoma State11%54%-43%
Texas27%70%-43%
Wake Forest44%87%-43%
Miami (Ohio)38%80%-42%
St. Louis27%69%-42%
Connecticut27%69%-42%
Maryland25%67%-42%
Notre Dame53%94%-41%
Clemson31%71%-40%

This list shows the schools with the largest "graduation rate gaps" between basketball players and regular students. Cal tops the list, with a staggering 84 percentage point difference between basketball players and the overall student body.

BASEBALL

Baseball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford79%
USC54%
Washington State50%
Cal48%
UCLA43%
Arizona State39%
Washington37%
Arizona36%
Oregon State25%
Oregonno team

Stanford once again leads the Pac-10 in baseball grad rates, even though Stanford routinely loses its best players to the major league draft after three seasons.

Baseball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Santa Clara75%
Tulane60%
Rice58%
San Jose State54%
LSU39%
Clemson32%
South Carolina32%
Florida State31%
Georgia Tech28%
Texas24%
Miami24%
Cal State Fullerton24%
Georgia22%
Long Beach State16%

Texas, Miami, and Cal State Fullerton share more than success on the baseball field – they also share a 24% grad rate. Most of the major baseball powers have grad rates below 40%. Of course, the baseball draft causes a lot of players to leave early. But Stanford has managed a 79% grad rate despite losing a number of players early. Tulane and Rice also have managed to graduate more than half their players while having successful programs.

Top 5 Baseball Grad Rates Major Conference Schools
Duke95%
Boston College81%
Stanford79%
Iowa79%
Northwestern78%

The top grad rates belong to four private schools, plus Iowa. Congrats to the Hawkeyes on achieving a fine graduation rate.

Bottom 5 Baseball Grad Rates Major Conference Schools
Fresno State8%
Oklahoma State11%
Long Beach State16%
Nevada18%
Alabama20%

Believe it or not, Long Beach State's 16% grad rate actually represents an improvement. Fresno State has dropped down to replace the Dirtbags at the bottom of the graduation rate list.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Baseball Players and All Students (Difference of 30% or more) Major Conference Schools
 Baseball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Georgia22%69%-47%
Texas24%70%-46%
Oklahoma State11%54%-43%
BYU30%72%-42%
Miami24%65%-41%
Alabama20%61%-41%
Georgia Tech28%68%-40%
UCLA43%83%-40%
Clemson32%71%-39%
Texas A&M34%73%-39%
North Carolina State24%62%-38%
North Carolina43%80%-37%
Vanderbilt47%84%-37%
Cal48%84%-36%
Fresno State8%43%-35%
Oregon State25%59%-34%
Connecticut35%69%-34%
Washington37%70%-33%
Virginia60%92%-32%
Rice58%90%-32%
South Carolina27%58%-31%
Florida State31%62%-31%
Auburn36%67%-31%
Tennessee28%58%-30%
Nevada18%48%-30%

Some of the largest baseball graduation rate gaps belong to major baseball powers – Texas, Miami, Georgia, Clemson, Georgia Tech.

ALL STUDENT-ATHLETES

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Pac-10
Stanford87%
Washington68%
Oregon67%
Cal66%
Washington State62%
USC62%
UCLA61%
Arizona56%
Arizona State56%
Oregon State52%

Stanford leads the Pac-10 in athlete grad rates by a considerable margin. Oregon State had the biggest improvement in the last year, moving up from 47% to 52%.

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Selected Others
Santa Clara78%
Michigan74%
Ohio State63%
Florida State60%
Nebraska59%
Georgia58%
Georgia Tech58%
Texas57%
Miami57%
Alabama56%
Florida55%
LSU55%
Oklahoma53%
San Jose State46%

The overall graduation rate for student-athletes at Division IA schools is 61%. Most of the schools with big, successful athletic programs have overall athlete grad rates in the 50% to 65% range. Most schools have higher graduation rates in non-revenue sports than in football and basketball.

Grad Rates for African American Athletes (All Sports): Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasian
Stanford84%88%
Washington63%68%
USC52%66%
Washington State51%66%
UCLA49%67%
Arizona48%62%
Oregon45%74%
Cal43%70%
Arizona State41%59%
Oregon State38%55%

Oregon and Cal continue to have the biggest racial gaps in graduation rates for student-athletes.

Grad Rates for African American Athletes (All Sports): Selected Others
 African AmericanCaucasian
Michigan54%81%
Illinois52%76%
Iowa50%73%
Georgia Tech46%65%
Ohio State46%66%
Clemson43%65%
Nebraska43%62%
Kansas41%70%
Georgia41%65%
Tennessee39%63%
Colorado29%67%
Minnesota27%65%
Arkansas26%49%
Kentucky24%53%
BYU22%58%

Many schools continue to have large racial differences in graduation rates. In Division IA as a whole, the graduation rate for Caucasian athletes is 65% and the graduation rate for African American athletes is 49%.

Top 5 Grad Rates for All Athletes Major Conference Schools
Duke90%
Stanford87%
Northwestern87%
Notre Dame87%
Rice82%
Virginia82%

For the most part, the same schools keep showing up on the "Top 5" list every year. This year, Virginia makes its first appearance on the list.

Bottom 5 Grad Rates for All Athletes Major Conference Schools
UNLV36%
UTEP38%
Fresno State42%
Oklahoma State42%
Arkansas44%
Houston44%

All of these schools except UTEP showed up on the "Bottom 5" list last year as well.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between All Athletes and All Students (Difference of 10% or more) Major Conference Schools
 All AthletesAll StudentsDifference
UCLA61%83%-22%
Cal66%84%-18%
Florida55%73%-18%
BYU54%72%-18%
USC62%76%-14%
Colorado53%66%-13%
Texas57%70%-13%
Texas A&M60%73%-13%
Auburn54%67%-13%
Oklahoma State42%54%-12%
Clemson59%71%-12%
Kentucky46%58%-12%
North Carolina68%80%-12%
Georgia58%69%-11%
Wake Forest76%87%-11%
Georgia Tech58%68%-10%
Michigan74%84%-10%
Virginia82%92%-10%

Last year, BYU had the largest graduation rate gap for all athletes. This year, there's a new leader: UCLA. In fact, the University of California system now holds down the top two spots on this list, with Cal in a tie for second place. We wonder whether this is what the founders of the UC system had in mind.

Source: All figures are taken from the NCAA 2004 Graduation Rates Report. The report measures the percentage of scholarship athletes who graduated from each school within six years after enrolling as freshmen at that school. All figures are "four class" graduation rates, representing the combined graduation rate of the four most recent classes for which data are available.


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