Sports Law Blog
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Monday, December 04, 2006
Graduation Gap Bowl

Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe has compiled his annual Graduation Gap Bowl. It compares the Associated Press Top 25 college football teams with how those teams would rank by the graduation rates of their players:

AP Top 25 College Football

Team (1st-place votes)Record
1. Ohio State (65) 12-0
2. Florida 12-1
3. Michigan 11-1
4. LSU 10-2
5. Louisville 11-1
6. Wisconsin 11-1
7. Oklahoma 11-2
8. USC 10-2
9. Boise State 12-0
10. Auburn 10-2
11. Notre Dame 10-2
12. Arkansas 10-3
13. West Virginia 10-2
14. Virginia Tech 10-2
15. Wake Forest 11-2
16. Rutgers 10-2
17. Tennessee 9-3
18. Texas 9-3
19. BYU 10-2
20. California 9-3
21. Texas A&M 9-3
22. Nebraska 9-4
23. Boston College 9-3
24. Oregon State 9-4
25. TCU 10-2
Others receiving votes: Georgia 57, Georgia Tech 53, Hawaii 25, Houston 21, Penn State 9, Maryland 6, South Florida 6, Navy 4, South Carolina 3, UCLA 2.

Top 25 Graduation Rates

Team Players' graduation %
1. Navy 98
2. Boston College 96
3. Notre Dame 95
4. Wake Forest 93
5. Nebraska 88
6. Florida 80
7. Penn State 80
8. Texas Christian 78
9. Virginia Tech 74
10. Michigan 71
11. South Florida 66
12. Boise State 65
13. Maryland 64
14. South Carolina 64
15. Auburn 63
16. Texas A&M 63
17. West Virginia 63
18. Wisconsin 62
19. Oregon State 60
20. UCLA 59
21. Rutgers 58
22. Tennessee 58
23. Arkansas 55
24. Georgia Tech 55
25. OSU and USC 55
Barely passing graduation rates in the AP rankings: Brigham Young 53, Louisville 53, Oklahoma 52, Houston 51.
Teams that should be dropped from bowls on overall graduation success rates: Hawaii 49, LSU 49, California 44, Georgia 41, Texas 40.

Say what you want about Notre Dame football and its fans, but the team's graduation rate is impressive. As to my friends from the University of Texas, ahh . . .


Today ESPN highlighted a stylistic companion to that study--one that looks at racial disparity within the BCS graduation breakdown, noting that "the overall discrepancy between white and black players' graduation rates for top bowl teams was nearly twice the 13-point difference on average."

Blogger gorjus -- 12/04/2006 6:07 PM  


Very enlightening post.

Other statistics that would be interesting are those that leave the team prior to graduation for other "reasons" such as on-campus problems, off-campus issues, issues "covered-up" by coaches and other inappropriate activities such as not attending classes, accepting money for "employment" and other activities engaged in by those with special athletic skills.

Leadership is lacking here and this behavior starts a the very top of the university/college hierarchy.

Anonymous Richard Mock -- 12/04/2006 11:53 PM  

How about the top 25 teams with highest number of arrests (and that would include coaching staff, too)? I mean come on, off-campus issues? Let's just call a spade a spade.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/05/2006 7:13 AM  

One additional trend that might help show some of the discrepancy is the number of players from those low graduating teams that leave early for pro football as many of those players do not ever go back (interesting article in a recent SI about Carolina basketball players who do finish their degree). LSU has had 24 drafted since 2000, Georgia had 34, Texas 17 and Cal 19. This obviously doesn't look at a senior v. underclassmen difference but could be telling.

Blogger B.C. Barnes -- 12/05/2006 8:50 AM  

I say, who has time for class when you're busy trying to win a championship...

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/05/2006 9:30 AM  

If I could ask the questions, I would ask the following (for some reason, my system won't let me into the section of the article to ask questions of the author of the article):

(1) The "OSU" is Oregon State, I assume, but which "USC" are we talking about--Southern Cal or South Carolina?

(2) If Navy is at the top of the graduation poll, where's Air Force and Army?

(3) I'd be curious to see another Top 25 poll--this one, to counter the so-called graduation gap between whites and blacks, would compare the ratio of African-American players on the football team to the ratio of African-Americans on the campus as a whole.

(4) Last, one question I would address is why are we using "graduation rates" at all? Many student-athletes leave for different reasons--early entry (something hard to do at the military academies), transfer to another school, family situations, grades, and yes even suspensions/expulsions (not just from the school, but just off the teams), and never return. Is that the fault of the coaches and the schools?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/05/2006 10:09 AM  

It's not my post but I think I can answer a few of the last guys questions. No Army or Air Force b/c this poll only reflects teams receiving top 25 votes (of which do not include Army, Air Force, Duke, etc.). Also I believe USC refers to Southern Cal as South Carolina is spelled out in both polls. I also believe OSU refers to Ohio State as Oregon State is spelled out in both polls.

Blogger B.C. Barnes -- 12/05/2006 11:54 AM  

Those are interesting numbers, but they may not mean anything. The reality is that graduation rate is an extremely flawed metric when comparing academics across institutions. At first glance, we automatically equate higher graduation rates with being better, and there is some truth behind this. We all want to see our students graduate, student-athletes included. The problem is that, in comparing schools, higher isn't always better. One could very easily argue that the school (as a whole, athletics notwithstanding) with the higher graduation rates has less academic rigor than the school with the lower rate. In other words, the school with the higher graduation rate may simply have professors giving out more A's and B's for the same quality work that occurs at another institution, where the prevailing ethos is that a C represents satisfactory work and that A's and B's are difficult to come by. For example, many private schools have long been reputed to give out A's and B's rather easily because a student that fails out of school doesn't equals tens of thousands of dollars in lost tuition revenue. The University of Texas, mentioned in Mike's post, is required by state law to automatically except any applicant from a Texas high school ranking in the top ten percent of their graduating class. As a result, UT has for decades been over-subscribed and has been rumored to pressure faculty to "fail out" students in order to keep enrollment down at a more managemeable level.

Sorry for the lengthy comment, but I hope this adds some context to the graduation rate discussion.

Blogger Chad McEvoy -- 12/05/2006 2:39 PM  

Thank you all for these outstanding comments.

I agree that it would be helpful to know why students do not graduate. As several of you note above, some reasons might to have little to do with a school, while others may ascribe greater "blame" on the part of a school.

It would similarly be useful to know whether there is any connection between graduation rates and arrest propensity or breaking school rules.

As to graduation rate as a metric, you all make some great points, and Chad's comment about some schools having grade inflation or simply more grade-friendly professors is a good one.

In fact, it looks like "graduation rate" as a measurement would make for a very interesting study by an enterprising law student or grad student.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 12/05/2006 10:08 PM  

Someone may have said this or done research on this already, but maybe less emphasis should be on graduating and more on selecting appropriate majors? What I really mean is I have heard that on some campuses (maybe a lot) there are majors (such as sport management) which have become crutch (almost default) majors for football and basketball players. While that might be great for those programs, is it really helping the student-athlete by pushing them into a major that really serves little benefit to them other than to keep their progress rates (and graduation rates) looking so good, especially everyone knows that those kinds of majors are taught by professors with rarely any real world experience?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/06/2006 7:40 AM  

Anonymous 7:40 a.m.

Isn't that a knock on all of academia, that professors rarely have real world experience?

I think most undergraduate majors are useless, heck, I even think most law school classes are useless from a "real world" legal practice perspective.

Perhaps a better way to look at the athletic graduattion rates would be to compare them to the overall graduation rates of the respective schools.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/06/2006 9:33 AM  

I think it would be certainly interesting to see if there are certain "default" majors for student-athletes at particular colleges. That might be a very interesting area for exploration.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/10/2006 10:06 AM  

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