The Bootleg's Graduation Rate Analysis

In December we brought you a new look at graduation rates of Division I student-athletes, with analysis of the NCAA's new "Graduation Success Rate." The methodology gives a free pass to schools which suffer transfers out of their program. Our analysis of the NCAA's data still revealed troubling trends at many schools. Today we offer an expanded look at more recent NCAA data that includes racial and overall student body gaps, with some shameful conclusions.

For our previous Graduation Rate Analyses:

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 fifth annual analysis of student-athlete graduation rates.

We brought you Part I of this analysis in December 2005, when the NCAA released the first installment of its 2005 graduation rate data. The NCAA's first installment showed graduation rates on a sport by sport basis. Part I of The Bootleg's analysis examined graduation rates for the three major sports: football, basketball, and baseball.

In early 2006, the NCAA released the second installment of its 2005 graduation rate data. We now present Part II of The Bootleg's analysis, which takes a look at the newly released data. This part of our analysis covers graduation rates for all student-athletes, graduation rates for African American student-athletes, and graduation rate gaps between athletes and the overall student body.

For your convenience, we've combined our previously published Part I and our new Part II into a single comprehensive analysis. We invite you to review Part I again, or to skip directly to Part II. Read on for all of the analysis and conclusions.

PART I:
Major Sport Graduation Rates

This year, the NCAA has come up with a new measure of graduation rates: the "Graduation Success Rate" (GSR). The Graduation Success Rate differs from the graduation rates published in prior years in the way it accounts for transfers. In calculating the GSR, outgoing transfer students who leave a school while academically eligible no longer are counted as non-graduates of that school, as they were under the previous method. At the same time, incoming transfers are included in the school's GSR calculation, which was not the case in the past. Overall, this change in methodology has resulted in an increase in reported graduation rates. For all Division I-A student-athletes in all sports combined, the change in methodology has increased the graduation rate from 62% under the old method to 77% under the new GSR method.

The GSRs are based on the combined graduation rates for the four most recent classes for which data are available. Those are the classes that would have graduated in the years 2000 through 2003, assuming a five year track to graduation.

We've reviewed all of the major programs' Graduation Success Rates to compile lists of the top and bottom grad rates in each major sport. 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.

FOOTBALL

Football Graduation Rates: Pac-10
Stanford92%
Washington75%
Oregon63%
UCLA63%
Washington St.56%
USC55%
Oregon St.53%
Arizona St.52%
Cal47%
Arizona44%

The change in graduation rate methodology does not change the overall picture in the Pac-10. Stanford still leads by a considerable margin, as it did under the old method. Somewhat surprisingly, Cal's grad rate still languishes below 50%, even with the benefit of the new methodology.

Football Graduation Rates: Selected Others
Notre Dame96%
Nebraska85%
Florida80%
Virginia Tech72%
Michigan68%
Wisconsin67%
Miami67%
Ohio State54%
Georgia Tech53%
Florida St.52%
Oklahoma51%
LSU51%
Tennessee49%
Georgia45%
Texas40%
Alabama39%

For Division I-A student-athletes as a whole, the overall Graduation Success Rate is 77%. For Division I-A football players, the overall GSR is 65%. Those figures provide some benchmarks in understanding the performance of the major programs listed above. It's not surprising to see programs such as Oklahoma and Tennessee performing poorly. It's a little surprising, however, to see how badly Texas and Alabama lag behind other programs.

Top 10 Football Grad Rates: Division I-A
Navy98%
Wake Forest96%
Notre Dame96%
Clemson94%
Vanderbilt93%
Stanford92%
Northwestern92%
Air Force91%
Army91%
Rice89%
Boston College89%

The schools with the best graduation rates are mostly the ones you would expect. Schools such as Stanford, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Vandy, and Wake Forest traditionally had high grad rates under the old methodology. Under the new GSR methodology, the military academies are publishing their grad rates for the first time, and they have done very well. The one surprise is Clemson, with a 94% grad rate. Who knew?

Bottom 10 Football Grad Rates: Division I-A
Florida Atlantic20%
UNLV36%
San Jose St.36%
UTEP37%
Alabama39%
Texas40%
BYU40%
Hawaii40%
Minnesota41%
Michigan St.41%

UNLV and San Jose State keep showing up down there at the bottom of the list every year. But the real surprise, as noted earlier, is that Texas and Alabama are down there with them.

BASKETBALL

Basketball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford92%
Washington90%
Oregon St.60%
Washington St.54%
Oregon53%
USC44%
Cal44%
Arizona42%
UCLA38%
Arizona St.33%

Stanford still leads the Pac-10 in basketball grad rates. Washington made a very strong showing with a 90% grad rate. In general, the Pac-10 fared poorly, with seven of the 10 programs having basketball grad rates below the overall Division I-A basketball GSR of 55%.

Basketball Grad Rates: Selected Others
North Carolina82%
Syracuse75%
Santa Clara75%
Michigan St.73%
Gonzaga55%
Duke50%
Connecticut50%
Kansas43%
Kentucky33%
Georgia Tech31%
Maryland30%

When are the media going to realize that the Duke basketball program's academic story is a fraud? Duke's grad rate is just 50%, which is below the overall Division I-A basketball GSR of 55%. With the change in methodology, 50% is no longer a particularly respectable figure. If not for the change in methodology, Duke would have reported a 40% grad rate. The change in methodology has had the biggest impact on the teams with the worst grad rates in basketball. For the most part, programs that had rates of 20% or worse under the old methodology have managed to improve to 30% or better.

Top 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Wake Forest100%
Villanova100%
Illinois100%
Florida100%
Navy97%
Army96%
Pacific93%
Stanford92%
Rice91%
Indiana91%

With the change in methodology, several schools were able to improve their graduation rates all the way to 100%. Congratulations to Wake Forest, Villanova, Florida, and Illinois. Stanford's basketball grad rate did not benefit at all by the change in methodology, but Stanford still managed to finish in the top 10. Note that Stanford, Wake Forest, Army, Navy, and Rice finished in the top 10 in graduation rates in both football and basketball.

Bottom 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
San Jose St.0%
Nevada14%
Iowa St.17%
UTEP19%
Minnesota20%
Arkansas21%
Houston21%
UNLV24%
Texas25%
Memphis25%
Hawaii25%

If the list of the bottom 10 basketball graduation rates looks familiar, go back and take a look at the bottom 10 football graduation rates. There's a strong resemblance: six schools made both of the bottom 10 lists. The sorry six are Texas, Minnesota, UTEP, San Jose State, UNLV, and Hawaii.

BASEBALL

Baseball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford93%
Washington St.80%
Washington78%
UCLA60%
Cal59%
Arizona54%
Oregon St.54%
USC53%
Arizona St.46%
Oregonno team

Stanford makes it a trifecta, leading the conference in baseball grad rates as well as football and basketball grad rates. Six of the nine programs in the Pac-10 (uh, Pac-9) are below the overall Division I-A baseball GSR of 64%.

Baseball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Rice93%
South Carolina69%
Florida St.68%
Tulane50%
Miami50%
Texas50%
Georgia50%
Long Beach St.47%
San Jose St.47%
Georgia Tech43%
LSU40%
Cal State Fullerton39%

As in basketball, the change of methodology has helped some of those schools that have reported the worst baseball grad rates in the past. Still, the baseball grad rates at traditional powers such as Texas, Miami, LSU, and Cal State Fullerton continue to be weak.

Top 10 Baseball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Vanderbilt100%
Notre Dame100%
Clemson100%
Northwestern96%
Duke95%
Stanford93%
Rice93%
Baylor85%
Michigan St.85%
Florida82%

Stanford is in the top 10 nationally in baseball, basketball and football. In case anyone thought Clemson's strong grad rate in football was a fluke, take a look at Clemson's grad rate in baseball – a perfect 100%.

Bottom 10 Baseball Grad Rates: Major Programs
North Carolina St.34%
Kentucky37%
Nevada37%
Fresno St.38%
Oklahoma39%
UNLV39%
Cal State Fullerton39%
LSU40%
Houston40%
Oklahoma St.41%

These grad rates make it clear that the recent national championships at LSU and Cal State Fullerton were accomplished with players who mostly left school without their degrees.


PART II:
Overall Student-Athlete Grad Rates, African American Grad Rates, Graduation Rate Gaps

Part II of The Bootleg's Graduation Rate Analysis digs a little deeper, getting behind the numbers. This part of our analysis is based on the NCAA's second installment of graduation rate data, which was released in early 2006.

The newly released information includes Graduation Success Rates for all student-athletes, allowing us to look at the overall graduation rate picture. We have identified the best and worst overall student-athlete graduation rates among all major programs.

The NCAA also has released information about Graduation Success Rates for minority student-athletes. We have looked in particular at graduation rates for African American student-athletes, identifying some programs that have significant race-based gaps in grad rates.

In addition, the newly released information allows us to make comparisons between graduation rates for student-athletes and graduation rates for the overall student body at each school. We have put together an analysis showing which schools have the biggest graduation rate gaps between athletes and the overall student body in each of the major sports.

ALL STUDENT-ATHLETES

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Pac-10
Stanford94%
Washington84%
Oregon75%
Oregon St.73%
Cal73%
Washington St.70%
UCLA70%
Arizona St.69%
USC67%
Arizona66%

These are the first overall student-athlete graduation rate figures to be calculated using the NCAA's new Graduation Success Rate. The new method excludes outgoing transfer students from the calculation of the graduation rate so long as they were in good standing when they left, and includes incoming transfer students. Because of the change in the method of calculation, these graduation rates are generally somewhat higher than the graduation rates reported in previous years. Under the new method of calculating graduation rates, Stanford has retained its lead over the other Pac-10 schools in student-athlete grad rates. Washington, while trailing well behind Stanford, has separated itself somewhat and has emerged ahead of the other Pac-10 schools. The overall Division I-A Graduation Success Rate for all student-athletes is 77%, which means that eight of the Pac-10 schools fall below the Division I-A average.

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Selected Others
Florida91%
Penn St.87%
Michigan85%
Wisconsin82%
Ohio St.78%
Florida St.78%
Miami77%
Nebraska77%
Texas73%
Tennessee71%
Alabama69%
Georgia Tech67%
LSU67%
Georgia65%
Oklahoma62%

The Division I-A average Graduation Success Rate for all student-athletes is 77%. The most prominent Big 10 schools have above-average student-athlete graduation rates, while the most prominent Big 12 and SEC schools tend to have relatively low student-athlete graduation rates, with most of them at or below the average of 77%. The exception is Florida, which bucks the SEC trend and has a surprisingly strong student-athlete graduation rate at 91%.

Top 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
Navy99%
Notre Dame98%
Northwestern97%
Clemson97%
Duke96%
Army95%
Stanford94%
Wake Forest94%
Air Force93%
Vanderbilt93%
Rice93%
Boston College93%

The service academies, which did not report their results under the old method of calculating graduation rates, all have very good student-athlete Graduation Success Rates. Along with the service academies, the list of the Top 10 Graduation Success Rates includes the usual suspects, such as Stanford, Duke, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Rice . . . and Clemson? It's intriguing that Clemson reports a Graduation Success Rate for all athletes of 97%, but reports that under the old Department of Education methodology, its graduation rate for all athletes was only 53%. The primary difference in methodology is the treatment of transfer students. Clemson must have a whole lot of athletes transferring out to explain the difference between 97% and 53%. It's hard to understand how that kind of transfer rate could be sustained over time. We will be interested to see whether this continues in future years.

Bottom 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
UTEP42%
UNLV53%
Fresno St.56%
San Jose St.57%
New Mexico St.57%
Houston59%
New Mexico59%
Hawaii59%
Arkansas60%
Oklahoma62%

The worst overall graduation rates for student-athletes belong mostly to state schools from second-tier conferences. However, two major conference schools, both of them flagship schools in their states, managed to sink all the way down to the Bottom 10: Arkansas and Oklahoma.

AFRICAN AMERICAN GRADUATION RATES

There continue to be substantial racial differences in graduation rates. We have put together some figures showing African American Graduation Success Rates for football players and for all student athletes. The racial gaps are persistent, and sometimes startling. (We did not analyze the basketball or baseball grad rates for African American student-athletes because there are not enough athletes in certain racial categories to make the data meaningful.)

AFRICAN AMERICAN FOOTBALL PLAYERS

Football Grad Rates for African American Players: Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasian
Stanford88%97%
Washington69%77%
Oregon50%87%
Arizona49%62%
UCLA47%78%
USC45%63%
Washington St.43%79%
Cal39%53%
Oregon St.37%64%
Arizona St.34%59%

Eight of the Pac-10 schools fall below the overall Division I-A Graduation Success Rates of 55% for African American football players. We don't know which is worse: the fact that Cal, Oregon State, and Arizona State fail to graduate even 40% of their African American football players, or the fact that Oregon, UCLA, and Washington State have such large racial differences in football graduation rates.

Football Grad Rates for African American Players: Selected Others
 African AmericanCaucasian
Florida71%93%
Miami60%85%
Michigan50%86%
Oklahoma47%58%
Florida St.47%71%
Auburn45%88%
LSU43%72%
Tennessee41%83%
Ohio State38%74%
Texas37%50%
Arkansas33%76%
Georgia28%74%

With few exceptions, the major football schools tend to have large racial gaps in graduation rates. Overall, there is a substantial racial gap in Division I-A Graduation Success Rates: African American football players have an overall grad rate of 55%, compared to 78% for Caucasian players.

ALL AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENT-ATHLETES

Grad Rates for African American Athletes (All Sports): Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasian
Stanford88%95%
Washington72%86%
Arizona St.56%76%
UCLA54%79%
Oregon54%87%
USC53%71%
Cal52%78%
Washington St.51%79%
Oregon St.43%77%
Arizona42%78%

The change in methodology for calculating graduation rates has not changed the fact that there are substantial racial gaps in graduation rates at some schools. In fact, the new calculation method has resulted in even bigger racial gaps than we saw under the old method. Seven of the Pac-10 schools have gaps of at least 20 percentage points between grad rates for African American student-athletes and grad rates for Caucasian student-athletes. Eight Pac-10 schools have grad rates for African American student-athletes that are below the 60% overall Division I-A Graduation Success Rate for African American student-athletes.

Grad Rates for African American Athletes (All Sports): Selected Others
 African AmericanCaucasian
Florida85%94%
Miami70%82%
Virginia68%91%
Florida St.63%83%
Michigan61%90%
Nebraska60%81%
Georgia Tech55%70%
Texas55%82%
Ohio St.54%83%
Tennessee52%81%
Oklahoma49%67%
Georgia38%78%
Minnesota38%73%
Arkansas33%69%

You have to wonder what's going on at a school such as Georgia, where Caucasian student-athletes graduate at a rate of 78%, while African American student-athletes have barely more than a one in three chance of getting a diploma, with a grad rate of just 38%. Is anybody paying attention to this issue? In Division I-A as a whole, the Graduation Success Rate for Caucasian student-athletes is 83% and the Graduation Success Rate for African American student-athletes is 60%.

GRADUATION RATE GAPS

The Bootleg has combed through the data and has compared the graduation rates for athletes to the graduation rates for the overall student bodies at each school. We've identified for each of the major sports the schools at which the athlete graduation rates lag the farthest behind the overall student graduation rates.

The NCAA does not publish its new Graduation Success Rates for the overall student body. Rather, the NCAA's figures for the overall student body at each school are calculated using the Department of Education's method (the "federal graduation rate"). This was the method used by the NCAA for all of its calculations in previous years. Because the federal graduation rates are the only available grad rates for the overall student body at each school, we have used the federal grad rates in our comparisons of athletes to the overall student body.

FOOTBALL

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Football Players and All Students: Division I-A (Difference of 20% or more)
 Football PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Cal41%84%-43%
Texas31%72%-41%
BYU18%55%-37%
Florida42%76%-34%
Pitt31%64%-33%
Michigan St.39%70%-31%
Georgia43%71%-28%
USC50%78%-28%
UCLA57%85%-28%
Miami (Ohio)53%80%-27%
Michigan59%85%-26%
North Carolina St.39%64%-25%
North Carolina57%81%-24%
Tennessee36%59%-23%
Missouri43%66%-23%
Clemson49%71%-22%
Georgia Tech47%69%-22%
Illinois58%80%-22%
Alabama39%61%-22%
Auburn46%67%-21%
Rutgers51%72%-21%
Virginia71%92%-21%

These graduation rate gaps reflect the difference between a school's overall student body and its football players. You could think of this gap as one indication of the extent to which a school has compromised its normal academic standards for the sake of football. Heading up the list this year, once again, are Cal and Texas. The two teams that played in the national championship game this past season, Texas and USC, have some of the worst football graduation rate gaps in the nation.

BASKETBALL

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Basketball Players and All Students: Major Programs (Difference of 40% or more)
 Basketball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Texas10%72%-62%
Rutgers15%72%-57%
Texas A&M18%75%-57%
Boston College31%88%-57%
Cal29%84%-55%
Georgia Tech14%69%-55%
UCLA31%85%-54%
Duke40%93%-53%
Clemson20%71%-51%
Georgetown42%93%-51%
Pitt13%64%-51%
USC27%78%-51%
Virginia42%92%-50%
Colorado St.13%63%-50%
Providence36%85%-49%
Northwestern43%92%-49%
Iowa St.18%65%-47%
Minnesota8%54%-46%
DePaul20%62%-42%
Notre Dame53%95%-42%

Texas has the largest graduation rate gap between basketball players and regular students. Three Pac-10 schools – Cal, USC, and UCLA – made the list of schools with the largest graduation rate gaps in both football and basketball. Duke graduates basketball players at a far lower rate than regular students, giving it one of the nation's biggest graduation rate gaps.

BASEBALL

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Baseball Players and All Students: Major Programs (Difference of 30% or more)
 Baseball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Texas21%72%-51%
Georgia Tech21%69%-48%
Georgia24%71%-47%
North Carolina St.19%64%-45%
BYU11%55%-44%
UCLA42%85%-43%
Oklahoma St.14%56%-42%
Tennessee19%59%-40%
Clemson31%71%-40%
Texas A&M35%75%-40%
Miami28%67%-39%
North Carolina43%81%-38%
Cal48%84%-36%
Missouri31%66%-35%
Oregon St.24%59%-35%
Alabama29%61%-32%
South Carolina29%61%-32%
Washington41%71%-30%
New Mexico13%43%-30%
Florida46%76%-30%

Texas tops the list of schools with the largest baseball graduation rate gaps. Texas fell just short of winning a sort of triple crown of academic infamy: Texas has the largest graduation rate gaps in baseball and basketball, and the second largest graduation rate gap in football. There was some talk that Texas could end up holding the national titles in all three sports at the same time this year. Now we see the price Texas is paying for this success: spectacularly flagrant academic compromises in all three major sports. Cal and UCLA made the list of the biggest baseball graduation gaps as well, giving them some of the biggest graduation rate gaps in all three major sports.

ALL STUDENT-ATHLETES

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between All Athletes and All Students: Major Programs (Difference of 10% or more)
 All AthletesAll StudentsDifference
UCLA62%85%-23%
Clemson53%71%-18%
Florida58%76%-18%
Cal67%84%-17%
USC61%78%-17%
Texas56%72%-16%
Georgia55%71%-16%
Auburn55%67%-12%
Georgia Tech57%69%-12%
Texas A&M63%75%-12%
Virginia80%92%-12%
North Carolina70%81%-11%
North Carolina St.54%64%-10%
Wake Forest76%86%-10%
Miami (Ohio)70%80%-10%

After looking at the graduation rate gaps in the three major sports, it's no surprise to see which schools show up on the list of the biggest overall graduation rate gaps for all student-athletes. Schools such as Texas, UCLA, USC, and Cal suffer from persistent academic underperformance by their student-athletes as compared to their regular students. Texas, UCLA, and USC have parlayed their academic compromises into quite a bit of athletic success. Cal, on the other hand, doesn't have all that much to show for its academic compromises, does it?

Source: All figures are taken from the NCAA 2005 Graduation Success Rates Report, except for figures comparing athlete graduation rates to overall student body graduation rates, which are taken from the NCAA 2005 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.


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