Grad rates vary for tourney teams

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

This is college basketball, so let's examine who among the players in the upcoming NCAA Tournament might be heading as readily toward their B.A. as the NBA.

A Star Tribune analysis shows that Stanford, with a 100 percent graduation rate among incoming freshmen between 1991 and 1994, tops the field of 65.

The bottom seeds of the student-athlete brackets are Hawaii, McNeese State and Oklahoma. no freshman who entered those schools between 1991 and 1994 got a degree within six years, or by the time the NCAA collected its most recent data. Zero.

The Star Tribune analysis was conducted by examining the most recent data in the 2001 "NCAA Graduation-Rates Report." That data provides graduation information about students on athletic scholarship in all Division I programs who entered their respective colleges from 1991 through 1994.

It tracks freshmen who stayed in those programs and graduated within six years.

Sports graduation rates can be affected by students who transfer from their first college; by those few men who leave to turn pro; and by those who are dismissed from their colleges for academic or other reasons.

Of the 65 men's tournament teams, the median graduation rate is 40 percent; that is, half the competing teams have rates lower than 40 percent and half have graduation rates higher. Kansas University ranks in the upper half with a 67 percent graduation rate over the period.

Other high and low lights from the NCAA data:

l Though Cal-Berkeley is often rated as the nation's best public university, and though it graduates 82 percent of its students, only 18 percent of its men's basketball players graduated in six years. That's the worst differential between an institution's student body and its basketball team among all the participants in the men's and women's tournaments.

l Of the men's tournament teams, 22 percent had higher graduation rates than the general student population at their respective schools. That includes Kansas because the KU's general student graduate rate was 54 percent.