Saban opposes NCAA reforms

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- LSU coach Nick Saban doesn't believe graduation rates tell the whole story of college coaches' success in preparing athletes for life.

"We get criticized about graduation rates, but I have so many positive stories I can tell you about guys who would have never gone to college had they not been athletes," he told about 350 people at a College Football Hall of Fame luncheon Wednesday.

Saban opposes a series of measures approved by the NCAA aimed at improving graduation rates, including penalizing schools that do not meet standards that have not been determined yet.

"It shouldn't be necessary for us to have to penalize people
who don't do that. We all should be trying to do that as part of
our overall program and philosophy," he told reporters after his

The latest NCAA graduation rates show that 40 percent of LSU freshmen football players arriving on campus between the years 1993-96 graduated from the school within six years. Of the freshmen class entering in the fall of 1996 -- the latest year available -- only 29 percent graduated in six years. Saban did not become coach at LSU until 2000.

Saban said things are improving at LSU. He pointed to a new academic support center for student-athletes on campus. He also said that more than 30 members of the Tigers team that won the Bowl Championship Series title in January had grade-point averages of 3.0 or better.

"We've made a tremendous amount of progress in that area," he said.

Saban said his coaching goals include ensuring the athlete is prepared for success in life, "where they're going to have the
kind of commitment, character, attitude, thoughts, habits,
priorities to make good decisions."

Another goal is leaving his players better off for having played football for LSU. He said he thinks that is the case for most schools.

"All we read about is the things we didn't do. But for every thing that you read about that we didn't do, especially when it comes to academics and graduation rates, I can tell you 100 stories about what we have done," he said.