Radford Has Best Graduation Rate Under NCAA Guidelines
Led by Radford, almost two dozen Division I schools reported Graduation Success Rates of at least 95 percent for athletes who enrolled in 1995 to 1998. All of them were higher than their general student populations, according to NCAA figures released last week.
The average for the 318 Division I colleges, including the Army, Navy and Air Force academies, was 76 percent. Other GSR averages included 69 percent for men, 86 percent for women, 82 percent for Whites, 59 percent for Blacks, and 68 percent for Hispanics.
The NCAA released data for specific sports in December, but the recent listing was the first school-by-school and gender and ethnic breakdown that also included federal graduation data and a comparison of the rates for athletes with the entire student bodies.
“The Graduation Success Rate is an important indicator of the direction and your commitment to the academic success of your student athletes,” said Greig Denny, the athletic director at Radford, the only Division I school with a 100 percent GSR for 1995-98, the most recent reporting period. “It’s not just with our coaches; there are a lot of people in that commitment, it includes our coaches, our administration and our faculty and staff at the university.”
The figures compiled by the NCAA are generally higher than those reported by the government because the GSR does not include athletes who may have transferred to other schools while still in good academic standing at their original colleges. A separate Academic Progress Report, the figures that will trigger the first penalties under the NCAA’s new academic reform package, are expected by late February or early March.
That data will be based on the number of athletes on each team who achieve eligibility and return to campus full time each term, and colleges will be given yearly assessments.
Radford, a Virginia school of about 9,200 in the Big South Conference, competes in every major sport except football. It was listed with a 65 percent graduation rate for all students and 54 percent for athletes under the federal standard, but every athlete who left was academically eligible at the time, accounting for the NCAA’s perfect rating.
The national average for all Division I students, including non-athletes, was 59 percent.
“I can’t put my finger exactly on what we’re doing differently than other institutions out there, other than that has been a longstanding philosophy and principle of our athletic program,” Denny said.
About 300-some athletes compete at Radford.
Next in academic success was the U.S. Naval Academy at a 99 percent GSR for athletes. Notre Dame and Valparaiso, nearby private schools in northern Indiana, tied for third at 98 percent. Clemson, Holy Cross, Lehigh, Siena, Georgetown, Northwestern, Richmond and Davidson were at 97 percent; Duke and Sacred Heart were at 96 percent; and Army, William and Mary, Creighton, The Citadel, Loyola, Md., Villanova and Robert Morris were at 95 percent.
“I think it does make a difference that we’re a private school,” Valparaiso AD Mark LaBarbera said. “Public schools have a little different mandate than private schools. Public schools often, because they’re taxpayer-supported, have a mission to serve a broader population, and that’s the way it should be. We need institutions like that. But I do think our coaches have a little more discretion to look for kids that fit our academic profile a little better.”
At the other end of the scale, 13 schools, most of them historically black colleges in the South or Southwest, had a GSR below 50 percent.
Savannah State had the lowest, at 22 percent, followed by Florida A&M at 35 percent, Texas Southern at 36 percent, New Orleans at 38 percent and Norfolk State and Charleston Southern at 40 percent. The others that had fewer than half their athletes graduate were UTEP, Gardner-Webb, Jackson State, Idaho State, Nicholls State, Alabama A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
— Associated Press
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