The Bootleg's Graduation Rate Analysis

"fictio cedit veritati"
The Vanguards of Veritas
Posted Jan 6, 2009


Many of you have read comments from recruits on the purported strength of various Division I-A schools in terms of the academic support they offer their student-athletes. In reality, many schools near and far are shameful in their proven inability to graduate their players, including a shameful 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 2008 analysis
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 eighth annual analysis of student-athlete graduation rates.

The Bootleg's analysis is based on the data in the NCAA's 2008 graduation rate report. Our analysis breaks down the graduation rates for the three major sports – football, basketball, and baseball. We also take a look at overall graduation rates for all student-athletes.

With respect to football and basketball, our analysis includes conference-by-conference summaries of graduation rates for the six major conferences and for certain other schools of interest. With respect to baseball and overall student-athlete grad rates, we focus on the Pac 10, with additional data for selected programs outside the conference.

Our analysis includes lists of the top 10 and bottom 10 graduation rates nationwide for the major programs in each sport. We also take a look at overall graduation rates for African American student-athletes, with a closer look at African American graduation rates in football. In addition, we once again present lists of the schools with the biggest "graduation rate gaps" in each sport – that is, the biggest gaps between the student-athlete graduation rate and the overall student body graduation rate at each school.

The graduation rates in The Bootleg's analysis are not some Stanford-biased fantasy concoction, but are the NCAA's published "Graduation Success Rates" (GSRs). The NCAA introduced GSRs three years ago. Previously, the NCAA used the "federal graduation rate" that is used by universities for non-athletic purposes (so called because it is the method required by the federal Department of Education). The GSR 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 when they left. The GSR also includes incoming transfers in the graduation rate.

Using the GSR instead of the federal graduation rate increases reported graduation rates. For all Division I student-athletes in all sports, the combined GSR this year is 15 percentage points higher than the federal graduation rate – the GSR is 78%, while the federal graduation rate is 63%. Call us cynical, but we think this may have something to do with the reason the NCAA created the GSR. It's a lot easier to boost graduation rates and demonstrate improvement by just changing the method of computation than by actually graduating more athletes.

The graduation rates in this analysis are "four-class" graduation rates – that is, combined graduation rates for the four most recent classes for which information is available. The classes covered are the classes that would have graduated in the years 2003 through 2006, assuming a five-year track to graduation. The graduation rates represent the percentage of student-athletes who graduated within six years after starting college.

FOOTBALL

Football Graduation Rates: Pac-10
Stanford93%
Washington St.68%
Washington65%
Oregon St.64%
UCLA62%
Arizona St.60%
USC54%
Oregon53%
Cal53%
Arizona41%

Stanford has the leading football graduation rate in the Pac 10 by a margin of 25 percentage points. In no other major conference is one school so far ahead of all the others in football graduation rates. For all schools in Division I-A, the overall football graduation rate is 67%. (We realize that Division I-A is now called the "Football Bowl Subdivision," but that's a pretty lame name, so we're not going to use it.) Eight of the Pac 10 schools are below the Division I-A average and one is barely above the average. So, except for Stanford, the Pac 10's football grad rates are not good. Washington, which had the second best grad rate in the conference for the last several years, has dropped back into the pack. When we first started doing this analysis back in 2002, Arizona had the third best graduation rate in the conference, but Arizona has had the lowest grad rate in the conference for five years in a row now. What happened in Tucson?

Football Graduation Rates: Big 10
Northwestern92%
Penn St.78%
Iowa75%
Illinois70%
Michigan70%
Indiana68%
Purdue63%
Wisconsin63%
Ohio St.52%
Minnesota51%
Michigan St.51%

Northwestern leads the Big 10, as expected. Penn State, as usual, is second in the conference. We're not sure why Penn State runs ahead of schools that have more impressive academic reputations, such as Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin, but one explanation may be Joe Paterno’s personal emphasis.

Football Graduation Rates: SEC
Vanderbilt91%
Florida68%
South Carolina65%
Mississippi63%
Mississippi St.63%
Auburn57%
Kentucky56%
Alabama55%
Tennessee54%
LSU54%
Arkansas52%
Georgia48%

The SEC's grad rate profile resembles that of the Pac 10 – one school, Vanderbilt, is well out in front, and the others are near the national average (67%) or below. Florida's 68% graduation rate doesn't really tell the whole story. Florida has an extraordinarily large difference between its Graduation Success Rate (68%) and its federal graduation rate (36%). For Division I-A football as a whole, there is a 12 percentage point difference between the cumulative GSR (67%) and the federal graduation rate (55%). Florida's 32 percentage point difference is far in excess of the normal range. This indicates that Florida has a very high number of outgoing transfers. There's a lot of churn in that program.

Football Graduation Rates: Big 12
Texas Tech79%
Baylor78%
Nebraska78%
Colorado75%
Kansas St.67%
Oklahoma St.62%
Missouri59%
Texas A&M56%
Iowa St.55%
Kansas53%
Texas50%
Oklahoma46%

The Big 12 has a new graduation rate leader: Texas Tech. Baylor and Nebraska, which were first and second last year, both dropped back somewhat this year, allowing Texas Tech to take over the top spot. Texas and Oklahoma continue to bring up the rear, though they swapped places this year. If the Big 12 had settled its three-way tie in the standings this year by using graduation rates, there would have been no contest: the Red Raiders would have smoked both the Longhorns and the Sooners.

Football Graduation Rates: ACC
Boston College92%
Duke92%
Wake Forest83%
North Carolina78%
Virginia Tech75%
Miami70%
Florida St.69%
Maryland68%
Clemson68%
Virginia66%
North Carolina St.59%
Georgia Tech48%

The ACC had the best football graduation rates among the BCS conferences again this year. Unlike the Pac 10, Big 10, and SEC, which have one school that stands out, the ACC has three schools with strong graduation rates. Georgia Tech has drifted down below the 50% mark, compared to 55% two years ago.

Football Graduation Rates: Big East
Connecticut77%
Syracuse75%
Cincinnati73%
Rutgers70%
Pittsburgh67%
West Virginia63%
Louisville58%
South Florida56%

Connecticut takes top honors in the Big East again this year, although that's not a great distinction because there aren't any schools in the conference with particularly strong graduation rates.

Football Graduation Rates: Selected Others
Navy95%
Notre Dame94%
TCU67%
Utah57%
BYU56%
Boise St.55%
San Jose St.34%

Utah, which landed a spot in the Sugar Bowl this year, fits in with the big-time football powers in more ways than one: Utah's 57% graduation rate is quite comparable to that of its Sugar Bowl opponent, Alabama (55%).

Top 10 Football Grad Rates: Division I-A
Navy95%
Notre Dame94%
Stanford93%
Boston College92%
Duke92%
Northwestern92%
Vanderbilt91%
Air Force90%
Army87%
Wake Forest83%
Miami (Ohio)83%

For the fourth straight year, Navy leads the nation in football graduation rates. In addition to the schools that usually appear on the Top 10 list, Miami of Ohio made the list for the first time this year. Congrats to the RedHawks!

If we look at federal graduation rates rather than Graduation Success Rates, Stanford has the #1 football graduation rate in all of Division I-A, at 89%. Aside from Stanford, the only other football programs reporting federal graduation rates above 80% are Boston College (88%), Duke (86%), Notre Dame (85%), and Vanderbilt (81%). Note that the service academies do not report federal graduation rates, so we don't know where they would fall on the federal graduation rate list.

Bottom 10 Football Grad Rates: Division I-A
San Jose St.34%
Arizona41%
Hawaii42%
UAB44%
Oklahoma46%
Georgia48%
Georgia Tech48%
Fresno St.48%
Central Florida49%
Temple49%
New Mexico49%

San Jose State has Division I-A's lowest graduation rate for the third straight year. The only BCS schools to appear in the bottom 10 are Arizona, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Georgia Tech. After three straight years in the bottom 10, Texas climbed just barely high enough to get off the list this year, with a grad rate of 50%. Given the Longhorns' track record, we expect them to be back on the list next year.

Grad Rates for African-American Football Players: Pac-10
 African- AmericanCaucasianDifference
Stanford88%97%-9%
Oregon St.63%70%-7%
Washington St.57%89%-32%
Arizona St.56%71%-15%
USC55%58%-3%
Cal53%59%-6%
Washington53%67%-14%
UCLA48%74%-26%
Oregon42%76%-34%
Arizona29%50%-21%

Stanford has by far the highest graduation rate in the Pac 10 for African-American football players. As we have reported in the past, there continue to be significant racial differences in graduation rates at some Pac 10 schools. Four schools have differences of 21 percentage points or more between African-American and Caucasian football graduation rates. Oregon has the biggest difference in the conference at 34 percentage points.

Grad Rates for African American Football Players: Selected Others
 African- AmericanCaucasianDifference
Florida61%86%-25%
Miami61%100%-39%
Michigan54%86%-32%
Alabama48%74%-26%
Auburn48%88%-40%
LSU44%71%-27%
Ohio St.41%72%-31%
Arkansas39%82%-43%
Texas38%67%-29%
Georgia38%76%-38%
Georgia Tech36%81%-45%

Quite a few of the major football schools have considerable racial gaps in graduation rates. The problem seems more widespread in the south, but it is by no means limited to the south. This analysis shows why Georgia Tech landed on the list of the bottom 10 football grad rates this year: the graduation rate for Caucasian players was good (81%), but Georgia Tech graduated only 36% of its African-American players, pulling its overall graduation rate way down.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Football Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 15% or more)
 Football PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Cal53%88%-35%
USC54%83%-29%
Georgia Tech48%76%-28%
Virginia66%93%-27%
Texas50%76%-26%
UCLA62%88%-26%
Georgia48%74%-26%
Michigan St.51%73%-22%
Texas A&M56%77%-21%
BYU56%74%-18%
Michigan70%87%-17%
Arizona41%57%-16%
Ohio St.52%68%-16%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps,"
see the note at the end of the analysis.

The "graduation rate gap" is the label we have given to the difference between the graduation rate for athletes and the graduation rate for the overall student body at a given school. The size of the graduation rate gap could be considered an indication of the extent to which the school has compromised its academic standards. The schools on this list tend to show up here year after year. This year, once again, Cal is on the top of the list.

BASKETBALL

Basketball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford67%
Oregon St.64%
Oregon58%
Washington50%
UCLA46%
Arizona St.38%
USC37%
Washington St.33%
Cal30%
Arizona20%

Stanford once again leads the Pac 10 in basketball graduation rates this year, after falling to second place on this list for the last two years. However, at 67%, Stanford continues to report a low graduation rate by Stanford's standards. This grad rate reflects the early departure for the NBA of Casey Jacobsen, Curtis Borchardt, and Josh Childress, none of whom have graduated. Another Stanford basketball player who is included in the data finished his degree outside the six-year window used for measuring graduation rates, and therefore also counts as a non-graduate for graduation rate purposes.

Pac-10 basketball graduation rates aren't very good. Eight of the ten programs have basketball grad rates below the aggregate Division I basketball GSR of 62%, and five schools have graduation rates of 38% or lower.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big 10
Northwestern90%
Wisconsin86%
Illinois80%
Penn St.78%
Purdue77%
Indiana62%
Michigan St.60%
Ohio St.53%
Michigan46%
Iowa46%
Minnesota36%

Northwestern has reclaimed the top spot in the Big 10. Last year's Big 10 basketball grad rate leader, Purdue, dropped all the way to fifth in the conference. Minnesota finished last in the conference in both basketball and football grad rates.

Basketball Graduation Rates: SEC
Florida89%
Alabama82%
Vanderbilt80%
South Carolina69%
Mississippi57%
Arkansas54%
Mississippi St.53%
Auburn44%
LSU40%
Tennessee38%
Kentucky38%
Georgia23%

Florida got a nice boost from using Graduation Success Rates rather than federal graduation rates. Florida's GSR is 89%, while its federal graduation rate is considerably lower at 62%. Georgia continues to trail well behind the rest of the conference.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big 12
Oklahoma St.92%
Nebraska77%
Kansas St.67%
Kansas64%
Oklahoma55%
Texas Tech50%
Texas A&M47%
Baylor44%
Colorado36%
Missouri36%
Texas31%
Iowa St.29%

Kansas had a nice gain in its basketball grad rate this year, going up to 64% after being in the 45% range for the last couple of years. Nebraska is second in the conference in both basketball and football grad rates, while Texas is 11th in the conference in both sports, which goes to show that there are differences between big sports factory schools.

Basketball Graduation Rates: ACC
Wake Forest100%
Florida St.100%
Duke89%
North Carolina86%
Miami70%
Boston College70%
Virginia Tech67%
Virginia55%
Georgia Tech50%
North Carolina St.40%
Clemson29%
Maryland10%

The ACC has several schools with strong graduation rates as well as strong basketball programs. Maryland is not one of them. But Maryland’s dismal 10% graduation rate this year actually represents an improvement over its 0% grad rate last year.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big East
Marquette100%
Notre Dame100%
Villanova89%
Georgetown70%
Pittsburgh69%
Providence67%
St. John's56%
Rutgers56%
Syracuse50%
Cincinnati47%
Seton Hall47%
South Florida42%
Louisville42%
West Virginia41%
DePaul40%
Connecticut33%

The top four grad rates in the Big East belong to Catholic universities. Apparently, priests believe in both education and basketball. We're guessing that DePaul didn’t get the memo from the Vatican.

Basketball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Butler92%
BYU91%
Xavier82%
Santa Clara73%
Gonzaga67%
St. Joseph's60%
Memphis55%
St. Mary's55%
UNLV29%
Fresno St.7%

Butler and BYU have the best graduation rates among the mid-majors. On the other hand, schools once coached by Jerry Tarkanian tend to be found at the opposite end of the list.

Top 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Marquette100%
Davidson100%
Wake Forest100%
Florida St.100%
Notre Dame100%
Navy97%
Oklahoma St.92%
Butler92%
BYU91%
Air Force91%

Davidson not only surprised everyone on the basketball court last year, it also graduates its players. Davidson is one of five schools with a 100% graduation rate in basketball. But sometimes 100% is not really 100%. Under the old federal graduation rate method, none of the schools on this list would still be able to report 100% graduation rates. Looking at the federal graduation rates for the schools on this list (not including the military academies, which do not report federal graduation rates), Butler would be the leader at 90%, followed by Wake Forest and Davidson in the 80% range. Marquette, Notre Dame and Florida State would be down in the 62% to 67% range, while Oklahoma State and BYU would drop all the way down to 50%.

Bottom 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Fresno St.7%
Maryland10%
Arizona20%
Georgia23%
New Mexico27%
Iowa St.29%
Clemson29%
UNLV29%
Cal30%
Texas31%

Cal and Texas returned to the bottom 10 list this year after being absent for a few years. Once again, Georgia and Arizona made the "Bottom 10" list in both basketball and football.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Basketball Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 30% or more)
 Basketball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Maryland10%77%-67%
Cal30%88%-58%
Georgia23%74%-51%
USC37%83%-46%
Clemson29%75%-46%
Texas31%76%-45%
UCLA46%88%-42%
Michigan46%87%-41%
Connecticut33%73%-40%
Fresno St.7%46%-39%
Iowa St.29%67%-38%
Virginia55%93%-38%
Arizona20%57%-37%
Missouri36%68%-32%
Texas A&M47%77%-30%
Colorado36%66%-30%
Syracuse50%80%-30%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps,"
see the note at the end of the analysis.

Basketball tends to have bigger "graduation rate gaps" between the athletes and the overall student body than is the case in football or baseball. This may be merely a function of smaller roster sizes and thus greater variability in basketball, but it also could suggest that some schools make bigger compromises to their normal academic standards in basketball. Some of the better academic school in the major conferences are regulars on the "graduation rate gap" list – for example, Cal and UCLA.

BASEBALL

Baseball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford100%
Cal84%
Washington75%
Washington St.72%
UCLA71%
Oregon St.54%
Arizona40%
USC36%
Arizona St.30%
Oregonno team

Stanford's baseball program has reached a 100% graduation rate, after checking in at 96% last year. At the other end of the conference, USC and the two Arizona schools have some of the worst baseball graduation rates among all major programs.

Baseball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Rice92%
Clemson91%
Florida St.85%
Tulane79%
South Carolina73%
Santa Clara72%
Division I average68%
Georgia62%
Long Beach St.61%
Nebraska61%
Georgia Tech57%
Miami52%
LSU45%
Texas40%
San Jose St.33%
Cal State Fullerton27%

The overall Division I baseball graduation rate under the GSR method is 68%, while the overall baseball grad rate under the old federal graduation rate method is 47%. This 21 percentage point difference between the two grad rate methods is a bigger difference than we see in football (12 percentage points) or basketball (16 percentage points), which suggests that there is a higher transfer rate in baseball. A number of traditional baseball powerhouses have lousy graduation rates – for example Fullerton, Texas, and LSU.

Top 10 Baseball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Stanford100%
Boston College100%
Northwestern100%
Vanderbilt100%
Notre Dame100%
U. of San Diego100%
Iowa95%
Duke94%
Rice92%
Virginia91%
Clemson91%

Stanford and several other schools on the top 10 list in baseball show that it's possible to have a strong baseball program and good graduation rates at the same time.

Bottom 10 Baseball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Cal State Fullerton27%
Arizona St.30%
San Jose St.33%
USC36%
Texas40%
Arizona40%
North Carolina St.40%
Auburn42%
Fresno St.44%
LSU45%
Not including Iowa St., which dropped baseball
during the time in question

A lot of programs on the "Bottom 10" list have been very successful over the years. Fullerton holds down the bottom spot for the third year in a row. Texas, USC, and Arizona are new to the bottom 10 list this year.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Baseball Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 20% or more)
 Baseball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
USC36%83%-47%
Texas40%76%-36%
North Carolina St.40%69%-29%
Texas A&M49%77%-28%
Arizona St.30%55%-25%
Auburn42%63%-21%
Miami52%73%-21%
Not including Iowa State, which dropped baseball during the time in question
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps," see
the note at the end of the analysis.

Texas, USC, and Texas A&M scored the hat trick this year: they made all three "graduation rate gap" lists (football, basketball, and baseball).

ALL STUDENT-ATHLETES

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Pac-10
Stanford95%
Washington83%
Oregon St.81%
UCLA79%
Cal76%
Washington St.73%
Oregon71%
Arizona St.69%
USC69%
Arizona64%

The combined graduation rate for all student-athletes in Division I is 78%, so the Pac 10 has four schools above the average and six schools below the average. Stanford continues to lead the conference in overall graduation rates by a substantial margin.

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Selected Others
Penn St.89%
Florida87%
Michigan83%
Miami81%
Florida St.80%
Ohio St.78%
Division I average78%
Nebraska76%
Texas72%
Georgia70%
Georgia Tech70%
LSU69%
Oklahoma69%

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 81%, compared to Graduation Success Rates of 67% for football, 62% for men's basketball, and 68% for baseball. Likewise, women have higher graduation rates than men – female Division I student-athletes have an 87% Graduation Success Rate, compared to 71% for male student-athletes. So, women and minor sport athletes pull up overall student-athlete graduation rates.

Top 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
Navy98%
Notre Dame98%
Northwestern97%
Duke97%
Boston College96%
Stanford95%
Vanderbilt94%
Wake Forest92%
Air Force92%
Army92%
Rice92%

The top 10 list for overall student-athlete graduation rates includes the same schools this year as in each of the last two years, except for the addition of Rice, which moved into a tie for the last spot on the list. The other schools have been on this top 10 list since we started compiling the list several years ago.

Bottom 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
San Jose St.52%
Fresno St.61%
UTEP61%
Arizona64%
New Mexico65%
UAB65%
UNLV66%
Hawaii67%
Arkansas68%
West Virginia68%
TCU68%
Houston68%

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, Arkansas, and West Virginia. San Jose State has the worst graduation rate for the second straight year. We have to admit we're surprised to see TCU on this list.

Grad Rates for African American Athletes (All Sports): Pac-10
 African AmericanCaucasianDifference
Stanford85%97%-12%
UCLA66%86%-20%
Cal60%81%-21%
Washington St.59%80%-21%
USC58%76%-18%
Arizona St.56%73%-17%
Oregon51%81%-30%
Washington51%90%-39%
Arizona38%73%-35%
Oregon St.*85%*
* No data reported

Six of the nine Pac 10 schools that reported race-based data have gaps of 20 percentage points or more between their grad rate for African-American athletes and their grad rate for white athletes. Washington has the biggest gap, graduating 90% of its Caucasian student-athletes but only 51% of its African American student-athletes.

Grad Rates for African-American Athletes (All Sports): Selected Others
 African AmericanCaucasianDifference
Florida77%91%-14%
Michigan58%88%-30%
Ohio St.58%81%-23%
Auburn55%84%-29%
Texas54%77%-23%
Arkansas48%75%-27%
Georgia46%83%-37%

For Division I as a whole, the graduation rate for African-American student-athletes is 62%, while the grad rate for Caucasian student-athletes is 84% -- a gap of 22 percentage points.

Source: All figures are taken from the NCAA 2008 Graduation Success Rate Report and the NCAA 2008 Federal Graduation Rate 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 2003 through 2006, assuming a five-year track to graduation. The six-year periods for measuring graduation of these classes ended in the years 2004 through 2007.

Note on methodology regarding "graduation rate gaps": As noted above, this analysis generally uses Graduation Success Rates, rather than 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 prevents 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 to continue to use GSRs for student-athletes in calculating the "graduation rate gaps" between the graduation rates for student-athletes and the graduation 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 their federal graduation rates, the "graduation rate gaps" we have identified generally are smaller than they would have been had we used the federal graduation rates for both the student-athletes and the overall student body.



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