The Bootleg's 2010 Graduation Rate Analysis

"fictio cedit veritati"

We often hear of the purported strength of various FBS (Division I-A) schools in terms of the academic support and life preparation they offer their "student-athletes". In reality, many powerhouse football schools are downright shameful in their consistently demonstrated inability to graduate their players. Once again, we pull back the curtain with the newest data from the NCAA.

The Bootleg's 2010 Graduation Rate Analysis

In response to ongoing popular demand, The Bootleg is pleased to present its ninth annual analysis of student-athlete graduation rates.

The Bootleg's analysis is based on the data in the NCAA's 2009 graduation rate report. Our eagerly anticipated annual 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.

Our analysis includes lists of the top 10 and bottom 10 graduation rates nationwide for the major programs in each sport. As we have done for the last couple of years, we are reporting conference-by-conference football and basketball graduation rates for the six major conferences, along with selected other schools.

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 the NCAA's "Graduation Success Rates" (GSRs), which were introduced four years ago. The Graduation Success Rate reflects the percentage of athletes who graduated within six years after starting college. The GSR doesn't count outgoing transfer students, so long as they were in good academic standing. So, losing players due to transfer generally does not hurt a school's graduation rate. Incoming transfers are included in the GSR calculation.

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 has been reported. The classes covered by this year's analysis are the classes that would have graduated in the years 2004 through 2007, assuming a five-year track to graduation.

FOOTBALL

Football Graduation Rates: Pac-10
Stanford89%
Washington69%
Cal64%
Washington St.62%
Arizona St.58%
USC58%
Oregon St.57%
UCLA51%
Oregon49%
Arizona41%

Stanford again leads the Pac-10 in football graduation rates by a wide margin. Washington, after dropping down to third place last year, has regained the # 2 spot on the list. For all schools in the "Football Bowl Subdivision" (formerly known as Division I-A), the overall football graduation rate is 67%. Once again this year, eight of the Pac-10 schools are below this FBS average. Although several of the Pac-10 schools have elite academic aspirations for their overall student bodies (we're thinking particularly of Cal, UCLA, and USC), they continue to report below-average football graduation rates. Cal's grad rate has improved and is now 64%, which is third in the conference, but frankly, the competition in this conference isn't that tough. Cal would rank just 8th in the Big 10 or 10th in the ACC. Arizona once again brings up the rear, with the worst grad rate of any BCS conference school.

Football Graduation Rates: Big 10
Northwestern92%
Penn St.85%
Iowa74%
Michigan71%
Illinois69%
Indiana67%
Wisconsin65%
Ohio St.62%
Purdue59%
Michigan St.56%
Minnesota54%

Northwestern leads the Big 10 once again. Penn State is a surprisingly strong second in the conference with a grad rate of 85%. Ohio State showed the most improvement, going from 52% last year to 62% this year.

Football Graduation Rates: SEC
Vanderbilt91%
Mississippi69%
Florida69%
Alabama67%
Mississippi St.63%
South Carolina60%
LSU60%
Auburn59%
Georgia57%
Kentucky55%
Tennessee52%
Arkansas52%

In the SEC, as in the Pac-10, one school is far ahead of the others in graduation rates - Vanderbilt. As we noted last year, Florida continues to have an exceptionally large difference between its Graduation Success Rate (69%) and its federal graduation rate (42%). The main difference between the two methods is how they count transfers. Outgoing transfers count against the federal graduation rate but do not count against the GSR. We can conclude, then, that Florida continues to have a very high number of outgoing transfers. Georgia has pulled its graduation rate up from 41% to 57% in just two years, finally moving out of last place in the SEC.

Football Graduation Rates: Big 12
Nebraska72%
Baylor70%
Texas Tech69%
Kansas St.66%
Missouri64%
Iowa St.64%
Colorado64%
Oklahoma St.61%
Kansas58%
Texas A&M55%
Texas49%
Oklahoma45%

There are no stand-out graduation rates in the Big 12 - at least, no stand-outs on the positive side. Nebraska has the top grad rate in the conference this year, but ranks only 17th among BCS schools. Last year's Big 12 leader, Texas Tech, fell from 79% last year to 69% this year. We imagine somebody will be sent to the closet for that. Oklahoma and Texas have the second and third worst graduation rates among BCS conference schools.

Football Graduation Rates: ACC
Duke96%
Boston College91%
Wake Forest81%
North Carolina80%
Miami75%
Florida St.73%
Virginia Tech71%
Virginia68%
Clemson67%
Maryland60%
North Carolina St.57%
Georgia Tech49%

The ACC had the best football graduation rates among the BCS conferences again this year. Nine of the twelve ACC schools finished at or above the overall FBS grad rate of 67%.

Football Graduation Rates: Big East
Connecticut82%
Rutgers81%
Syracuse77%
Cincinnati75%
Pittsburgh68%
West Virginia61%
South Florida60%
Louisville59%

Connecticut once again leads the Big East in graduation rates, but Rutgers is coming on strong. Rutgers has raised its graduation rate from 55% to 81% in just two years, which is remarkable. In fact, it's such a remarkable improvement in a four-year rolling average that we wonder a little bit about that.

Football Graduation Rates: Selected Others
Notre Dame96%
Navy93%
TCU65%
BYU61%
Boise St.58%
Utah57%
San Jose St.33%

TCU and Boise State both qualified for BCS games, but neither of them is going to win any awards for their graduation rates, both of which are below the FBS average of 67%.

Top 10 Football Grad Rates: Division I-A
Duke96%
Notre Dame96%
Navy93%
Northwestern92%
Boston College91%
Vanderbilt91%
Stanford89%
Air Force87%
Army86%
Miami (Ohio)85%
Penn State85%

After leading the nation in football graduation rates for four straight years, Navy finished third this year. Miami of Ohio made the Top 10 list for the second straight year, while Penn State finished in the top 10 for the first time.

Bottom 10 Football Grad Rates: Division I-A
San Jose St.33%
Arizona41%
Oklahoma45%
Fresno St.46%
Hawaii47%
Florida International47%
San Diego St.48%
UAB48%
Texas49%
Oregon49%
Georgia Tech49%
Eastern Michigan49%

Oregon has joined Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas in the race for the bottom. As the Ducks' football fortunes take wing, their graduation rates are flying south. A year ago, after years in the bottom 10, Texas managed to climb off this list. We predicted that the Longhorns would return to the bottom 10 again this year, and of course we were right. Some predictions are just too easy.

Grad Rates for African American Football Players: Selected Schools
 African AmericanCaucasianDifference
North Carolina St.43%94%-51%
Auburn48%94%-46%
Arkansas40%78%-38%
UCLA31%68%-37%
Georgia48%83%-35%
Miami65%100%-35%
Mississippi60%94%-34%
Utah48%82%-34%
Texas37%69%-32%
Georgia Tech41%73%-32%
Oregon39%70%-31%

After seeing large racial gaps in graduation rates year after year, we really shouldn't be surprised. But we still can't figure out how a football program can graduate 94% of its white players, but only 43% or 48% of its African-American players, as North Carolina St. and Auburn did. Something is very wrong here.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Football Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 15% or more)
 Football PlayersAll StudentsDifference
UCLA51%89%-38%
Texas49%77%-28%
Georgia Tech49%77%-28%
USC58%85%-27%
Virginia68%93%-25%
Cal64%88%-24%
Texas A&M55%77%-22%
Georgia57%76%-19%
Maryland60%79%-19%
Michigan St.56%74%-18%
Arizona41%57%-16%
Oregon49%65%-16%
Michigan71%87%-16%
Oklahoma45%60%-15%
BYU61%76%-15%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps,"
see the note at the end of the analysis.

The "graduation rate gap" between football players and the overall student body continues to persist at certain schools. Schools such as UCLA, USC, Cal, Virginia, and Michigan continue to report strong graduation rates for their overall student bodies, but much lower grad rates for football players.

BASKETBALL

Basketball Grad Rates: Pac-10
UCLA82%
Oregon73%
Stanford62%
Oregon St.58%
USC43%
Arizona St.40%
Washington St.38%
Washington29%
Cal20%
Arizona11%

Stanford continues to report a relatively low graduation rate, by its standards. Stanford's current 62% grad rate reflects the early departure for the NBA of Casey Jacobsen, Curtis Borchardt, and Josh Childress, none of whom have graduated yet. Also, Julius Barnes graduated outside the six-year window used by the NCAA to measure graduation rates, so he is counted as a non-graduate. This is the last year that Stanford's grad rate is affected by the Jacobsen-Borchardt-Barnes class. Stanford's grad rate should improve to 80% next year. Three of the Pac 10 schools - Arizona, Cal, and Washington - have grad rates that are among the bottom 10 for all major programs.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big 10
Northwestern92%
Illinois80%
Wisconsin78%
Penn St.67%
Purdue64%
Ohio St.60%
Iowa60%
Michigan St.58%
Indiana57%
Michigan44%
Minnesota44%

In just two years, Purdue's graduation rate has fallen from 91%, which was then the best in the conference, down to 64%. Minnesota, the Big 10's perennial bottom-dweller, has surprising company at the bottom, as Michigan has slipped into a tie for last place. Maybe somebody should check to see whether Michigan's basketball players, like its football players, are spending too much time at practice and not enough time in class.

Basketball Graduation Rates: SEC
Vanderbilt85%
Alabama85%
South Carolina62%
Mississippi62%
Florida60%
Arkansas58%
Mississippi St.47%
Auburn42%
Kentucky31%
Tennessee30%
LSU29%
Georgia18%

Seeing Vandy on the top of a graduation rate list is no surprise, but we didn't really expect to see Alabama right there with them. Florida's graduation rate dropped from a conference-leading 89% last year down to 60% this year. Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, and Tennessee all placed in the bottom 10 among all major programs.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big 12
Nebraska83%
Oklahoma St.82%
Kansas73%
Kansas St.62%
Oklahoma57%
Texas A&M56%
Texas Tech50%
Texas47%
Baylor36%
Missouri36%
Iowa St.36%
Colorado33%

Kansas continues to improve its graduation rate, going from 45% two years ago to 73% this year. Colorado is going the other direction, going from fourth in the conference two years ago (55%) to last place this year (33%).

Basketball Graduation Rates: ACC
Wake Forest100%
Duke92%
Florida St.80%
Boston College78%
North Carolina75%
Miami73%
Virginia Tech67%
Virginia56%
North Carolina St.45%
Georgia Tech38%
Clemson37%
Maryland8%

Maryland's 8% graduation rate means that in the four Maryland recruiting classes covered by this analysis, only one entering player actually graduated. That's right - one graduate in four classes. But that's an improvement from the grad rate report two years ago, when Maryland reported a 0% graduation rate for four classes.

Basketball Graduation Rates: Big East
Marquette100%
Notre Dame100%
Villanova92%
Georgetown82%
Providence77%
Pittsburgh75%
Rutgers70%
St. John's60%
Syracuse55%
Cincinnati53%
Seton Hall53%
DePaul46%
West Virginia44%
South Florida44%
Louisville38%
Connecticut27%

Connecticut once again has the worst basketball graduation rate in the Big East, and one of the worst in the nation. The Connecticut football team, on the other hand, leads the Big East with an 82% graduation rate, and the Connecticut women's basketball team has a 100% graduation rate. It's one of those things that make you go hmmmm. . .

Basketball Grad Rates: Selected Others
BYU100%
Utah St.100%
Butler90%
Xavier89%
Richmond85%
Gonzaga78%
Northern Iowa78%
Memphis67%
St. Mary's57%

A couple of programs from Utah, BYU and Utah State, are having a good year, with success on the court and excellent graduation rate reports.

Top 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Marquette100%
Wake Forest100%
BYU100%
Notre Dame100%
Utah St.100%
Northwestern92%
Villanova92%
Duke92%
Butler90%
Air Force90%

Wake Forest reported a 100% basketball graduation rate for the third year in a row, the only school to do so.

Bottom 10 Basketball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Maryland8%
Fresno St.8%
Arizona11%
Georgia18%
Cal20%
Connecticut27%
Washington29%
LSU29%
Tennessee30%
Kentucky31%

Cal is in the bottom 10 for the second straight year. It really is disgraceful that Cal has been willing to put up with low graduation rates for so long. Arizona is the only major conference school to show up on the bottom 10 list in both basketball and football.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Basketball Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 35% or more)
 Basketball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
Maryland8%79%-71%
Cal20%88%-68%
Georgia18%76%-58%
Connecticut27%74%-47%
Arizona11%57%-46%
Washington29%75%-46%
Michigan44%87%-43%
USC43%85%-42%
Clemson37%77%-40%
Georgia Tech38%77%-39%
Fresno St.8%47%-39%
Virginia56%93%-37%
Baylor36%73%-37%
For an explanation of the calculation of these "graduation rate gaps,"
see the note at the end of the analysis.

Maryland barely edged out Cal for the biggest "graduation rate gap" between basketball players and the overall student body.

BASEBALL

Baseball Grad Rates: Pac-10
Stanford100%
Cal84%
Washington74%
UCLA74%
Washington St.64%
Oregon St.44%
USC43%
Arizona St.38%
Arizona32%
Oregonnew team

Stanford reported a 100% graduation rate for the second straight year. Four Pac 10 teams landed on the national bottom 10 list - Arizona, Arizona St., USC, and Oregon St.

Baseball Grad Rates: Selected Others
Rice100%
Clemson95%
Georgia Tech83%
Florida St.81%
Division I average69%
South Carolina68%
Long Beach St.67%
Georgia65%
Nebraska50%
LSU48%
Miami45%
Fresno St.45%
San Jose St.38%
Texas37%
Cal State Fullerton29%

Rice, which has a very strong baseball program, raised its graduation rate to 100% this year. At the other end of the spectrum, a number of traditional baseball powerhouses reported grad rates below 50%.

Top 10 Baseball Grad Rates: Major Programs
Stanford100%
Boston College100%
Northwestern100%
Rice100%
Notre Dame100%
U. of San Diego100%
Iowa95%
Clemson95%
Wake Forest95%
Duke95%

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 Fullerton29%
Arizona32%
Texas37%
Arizona St.38%
San Jose St.38%
USC43%
Oregon St.44%
Miami45%
North Carolina St.45%
Fresno St.45%
Not including Iowa St., which dropped baseball
during the time in question

Cal State Fullerton, a baseball powerhouse, has the worst graduation rate among all major programs for the fourth year in a row. Fullerton has plenty of company, with several other traditional baseball powers also showing up in the bottom 10.

Biggest Difference in Grad Rates Between Baseball Players and All Students
Major Programs
(Difference of 20% or more)
 Baseball PlayersAll StudentsDifference
USC43%85%-42%
Texas37%77%-40%
Miami45%74%-29%
Texas A&M51%77%-26%
Arizona32%57%-25%
North Carolina St.45%70%-25%
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.

USC was the only school to score the hat trick this year: it made all three "graduation rate gap" lists (football, basketball, and baseball).

ALL STUDENT-ATHLETES

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Pac-10
Stanford94%
Washington84%
UCLA80%
Cal80%
Oregon St.76%
Oregon74%
USC74%
Washington St.72%
Arizona St.72%
Arizona61%

The combined graduation rate for all student-athletes in Division I is 79%, so the Pac 10 has four schools above the average and six schools below the average. Arizona has the worst student-athlete graduation rate of any major conference school.

Grad Rates for All Athletes: Selected Others
Penn St.89%
North Carolina87%
Florida85%
Alabama82%
Miami82%
Florida St.79%
Michigan79%
Division I average79%
Ohio St.78%
Nebraska75%
Georgia75%
Georgia Tech71%
LSU71%
Texas70%
Oklahoma70%

Student-athletes in the minor sports, especially women's sports, tend to have higher graduation rates than student-athletes in the major men's sports. So, women and minor sport athletes pull up overall student-athlete graduation rates. As a result, most schools have respectable-looking overall student-athlete graduation rates.

Top 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
Notre Dame99%
Navy98%
Northwestern97%
Duke97%
Boston College96%
Stanford94%
Vanderbilt94%
Wake Forest93%
Rice93%
Army92%

The top 10 list for overall student-athlete graduation rates is the same this year as last year, except that Air Force (90%) dropped out of a tie for tenth place.

Bottom 10 Grad Rates for All Athletes: Major Programs
San Jose St.52%
Fresno St.60%
Arizona61%
UAB65%
Texas Tech67%
UNLV68%
San Diego St.68%
North Carolina State69%
West Virginia69%
UTEP69%
Hawaii69%

Three Cal State campuses are in the bottom seven schools on this list. Texas and Oklahoma, with student-athlete graduation rates of 70%, barely missed the bottom 10 list.

Source: All figures are taken from the NCAA 2009 Graduation Success Rate Report and the NCAA 2009 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, rather than federal graduation rates. Outgoing transfers in good academic standing are excluded from the Graduation Success Rates, while incoming transfers are included. This analysis covers the classes that would have graduated in the years 2004 through 2007, assuming a five year track to graduation. The six-year periods for measuring graduation of these classes ended in the years 2005 through 2008.

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 student-athletes and the overall student body. Thus, the "graduation rate gap" tables compare GSRs for student-athletes to federal graduation rates for the overall student body. We realize that this not an apples to apples comparison, and we're not happy about that. But we believe the comparison 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 if we had used the federal graduation rates for both the student-athletes and the overall student body.

For our previous Graduation Rate Analyses:

Click here for The Bootleg's 2009 analysis
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

TheBootleg.com Recommended Stories