Grad rates increase slightly for Division I schools

INDIANAPOLIS -- An overall increase of 1 percentage point in
graduation rates might not seem significant. NCAA president Myles
Brand disagrees.

For the second straight year, the NCAA released figures showing
more than more three-quarters of college athletes, 77 percent,
graduate within six years, a slight increase over last year's 76

"One percent is good, very good," Brand said Wednesday when
the NCAA released new figures on the graduation success rate.
"Most importantly, if you look at all the trends in each subgroup,
we're seeing equal or better trend lines."

The study included 93,000 Division I athletes, almost all on
scholarship, who entered college from 1996 to 1999.

All sports, regardless of gender, had higher graduation rates
under the NCAA's formula than those calculated under federal
guidelines. The difference in the totals is a result of the NCAA
now including transfers in graduation rates, something the federal
numbers do not take into account. Brand said the distinction is
that the federal study misses about 35 percent of athletes, which
is why only about 68,000 athletes were included in the federal

This is the second year the NCAA has released its own data.
Athletes in 35 sports -- 17 men's and 18 women's -- were evaluated.
Graduation among male athletes increased from 69 percent to 70
percent, while female athletes remained at 86 percent for a second

As usual, men's basketball, football and baseball were the
lowest-ranked sports.

But NCAA officials even took solace in those numbers, pointing
out graduation rates in football have been steadily increasing.

"If you look at the year-by-year studies for football and men's
basketball over the last five years, we're very pleased with the
steady academic performance from '95 to '99," NCAA vice president
Kevin Lennon said.

Brand attributed the increases to a series of academic reforms
that have already been put in place and believes the trend can
continue if more academic measures are approved.

His goal is to reach 80 percent overall rate in the next five
years, a number Brand calls a realistic challenge.

"A move from 76 to 77 percent doesn't sound like much, but when
you get these high numbers, it is of consequence," he said. "But
good enough is never good enough, and I believe we can stretch it
even further."

Men's basketball again had the worst graduation rate of any
sport, 59 percent, but the NCAA number was much higher than the
federal figure (45 percent). Baseball and football were the next
lowest, with both showing 65 percent of athletes graduate. The
federal numbers showed football with a 55 percent graduation rate
and baseball at 46 percent.

Conversely, 82 percent of women's basketball players graduated,
17 percentage points higher than the federal number. But that was
the third lowest rate on the women's side.

Like the overall number, football and men's and women's
basketball both showed 1 percentage point gains over 2005.
Baseball's number held steady.

Among The Associated Press' Top 25 football teams, five schools
met or exceeded the national average with Notre Dame leading the
way at 95 percent. The others were Nebraska at 88 percent, Florida
at 80 percent, TCU at 78 percent and Clemson at 77. The NCAA's
figure for Florida nearly doubled the 42 percent rate from the
federal report.

Three of the Top 25 schools had graduation rates below 50
percent. They were Texas (40 percent), Georgia (41) and California

Top-ranked Ohio State and Southern California, the 2004 national
champion, both came in at 55 percent.

Last season's national basketball champion, Florida, received a
perfect 100 percent from the NCAA, while last year's women's
basketball champion, Maryland, was at 71 percent.

"The good news is we are continuing to make overall progress,"
Brand said. "The trend lines are up and, with a few exceptions,
the academic reforms we are continuing to lay, even in sports like
football and basketball which historically lag, are showing

Sports with the highest percentage of graduates were all on the
women's side: fencing, field hockey, gymnastics and skiing all had
a 94 percent graduation rate. Women's lacrosse was next at 93
percent, and women's swimming was 91 percent. Only one sport,
women's bowling, produced a number lower than the national average
-- 70 percent.

No men's sport topped 90 percent.

The highest rated men's sports were skiing (89 percent),
lacrosse (88 percent), fencing (87 percent), gymnastics (86
percent) and water polo (85 percent). Men's ice hockey, men's
swimming and men's tennis also topped 80 percent.

Eighteen of the sports equaled the national improvement with a 1
percentage point increase over last year. Six sports showed no
change. Only four sports -- men's and women's lacrosse, men's water
polo and women's bowling had lower graduation rates. Both lacrosse
teams dropped by 1 percentage point, while men's water polo and
women's bowling each had 2-point decreases.

Women's rifle, which improved from 73 percent to 78 percent, had
the largest one-year gain. Men's ice hockey and men's skiing were
next with 4-point increases followed by wrestling, which went from
66 percent to 69 percent.

The NCAA plans to release overall graduation rates for each
school later this year.