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University of Maryland - College Park: A Bastion of Academic Excellence



The NCAA recently released its 2009 Graduation Success Rate (GSR) study for student-athletes entering college between 1999 and 2002.  The press release emphatically exclaims that the average GSR over the '99-'02 period has increased by one whole percentage point from the '98-'01 period!  Student-athletes are now graduating at a higher percentage than ever before, which is oh, so exciting because last year student-athletes were graduating at a higher percentage than ever before as well.  I can't even begin to imagine what will happen next year!?!

More after the jump

The GSR is a fancy way of calculating graduation rates while taking into account players that leave in good academic standing.  Georgetown basketball, for example, has a GSR of 82 and Federal Graduation rate of 60; the difference stemming from the transfers of Tony Bethel, Drew Hall, Demetrius Hunter and Harvey Thomas.  A full definition can be found here: Division I Graduation Success Rate.

The graduation rates of all schools and sports can be found here.  Feel free to do all sorts of analyses that I don't want to do, including, but not limited to, conference comparisons, regional comparisons and comparisons of programs with cheating coaches  

Listed below are the graduation rates for the men's basketball programs of Big East schools, and how they compare to last year.

School     2009         2008       Change  
Marquette 100 100 0
Notre Dame 100 100 0
Villanova 92 89 +3
Georgetown 82 70 +12
Providence 77 67 +10
Pittsburgh 75 69 +6
Rutgers 70 56 +14
St. John's 60 56 +4
Syracuse 55 50 +5
Cincinnati 53 47 +6
Seton Hall 53 47 +6
DePaul 46 40 +6
West Virginia     44 41 +3
South Florida 44 42 +2
Louisville 38 42 -4
Connecticut 27 33 -6


14 out of the 16 Big East schools remained the same or saw an improvement in their graduation rates.  The only schools not to improve were Louisville and Connecticut.

But the Blue Ribbon Award goes to Gary Williams and the University of Maryland Terrapins.  During the 1999-2002 period, only 8% of men's basketball players entering the program graduated or left in good academic standing.  That is 2% lower than last year, but 8% higher than two years ago.  As you might remember, zero Maryland men's basketball players who entered between 1997-2000 graduated or left in good academic standing.

Gary Williams, chronically unable to grasp to simple concept of a student-athlete, has always refuted the above numbers with something similar to the below, which he said in 2007:

"I've graduated 42 players in 18 years.  I feel it is completely false, the [zero] number. The guys who are playing in the NBA, are they wrong for taking advantage of their ability? Are these people failures? To say the majority of these people are not successful is completely wrong."

Or perhaps this gem from 2008:

"I'll say it again: If you can make $6 million, who wouldn't do that? We all hope they graduate. What am I, not an educator? ... This is the world we live in. Is it wrong for Lonny Baxter, wrong for Juan Dixon, wrong for Drew Nicholas to make a million dollars? Chris Wilcox? What is wrong with that?

What's there to say? We had this period where we were really good. This is the price you pay."

What Sweaty Gary fails to realize is that the graduation rate is not implying that these players are not successful, the percentage does not count against players that turn pro early.  The figure counts against players that leave the program and are not in good academic standing, or in the words of the NCAA:

The GSR also allows institutions to subtract student-athletes who leave their institutions prior to graduation as long as they would have been academically eligible to compete had they remained.

Your student-athletes are not students, Gary.  That is what the 0% in 2007, the 10% in 2008 and the 8% in 2009 are saying.  Not that they one day cannot be successful, rather that while they are on campus, they are not fulfilling the student aspect of their duties, which if I recall correctly, is quite an important part of receiving scholarship money to play collegiate athletics.  Compare your classy quotes to what John Thompson III said last year.

"Our guys are always progressing toward a degree.  The NCAA didn't institute that rule for us. We've always graduated players. I'm comfortable with the way we do things, and our president is comfortable with the way we do things because of our history of graduating guys. They're not just here playing basketball. They are part of the overall fabric of this institution."

Stark difference, eh Gary?  And oh, of the four players you mentioned above, Lonny Baxter, Juan Dixon, Drew Nicholas and Chris Wilcox; none of them is making $6 million.  Two are playing in Greece, one is averaging less than 10 minutes a game in the NBA, and the fourth was arrested for firing a handgun a few blocks from the White House.

Keep on educating, Gary.

Good talk.