The Washington Times - October 3, 2007, 10:52PM
MarylandGary Williams SEE RELATED:


\ OK, maybe I should rephrase that, since a lot of things get Gary fired up. It’s one of the things that ensures that covering his team is never, ever boring and often entertaining in a bizarre sort of way.\

\ But here’s one thing Williams will consistently get fired up about: graduation rates, and how precisely they are calculated. \

\ A perfect example: The release of the graduation success rate from the NCAA today. Maryland checked in at 0 percent for players who both began their careers and entered Maryland between the fall of 1997 and the fall of 2000. And no, there is not a number missing there. The Terps delivered a donut run in terms of scholarship players graduating within six years of starting their eligibility clock.\

\ By my unofficial count, this group includes the top seven players on the 2002 national title team (Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Byron Mouton, Chris Wilcox, Steve Blake, Drew Nicholas and Tahj Holden), plus Terence Morris and two guys who transferred out of the program (Danny Miller and Matt Slaninka). That’s 10, matching the number Maryland (and Gary) released.\

\ It does not include walk-ons who did not play on scholarship, like Earl Badu. And it does not include guys who you’d think fell in that range but actually arrived before the fall of 1997 (like Mike Mardesich and the late LaRon Cephas).\

\ Anyway, Gary was quite feisty when I talked to him this evening, and this was one of his first comments:\

\ “Danny Miller graduated from Notre Dame,” Williams said. “Tahj Holden graduated from the University of Maryland this summer and Matt Slaninka graduated from Shepherd. That’s three out of 10. You can say they didn’t graduate in that six-year window, but whatever.”\

\ He proceeded to rattle off the salaries of several prominent former Terps in the pros, and I have to wonder if he was an accountant in a previous life. The numbers were almost dead-on upon further review.\

\ Still, a goose egg is a goose egg, and it was only fair to ask if this was in any way a reflection on his program.\

\ “How is it a reflection? Zero is a number based on a six-year period. Zero is not accurate in terms of graduating [players]. …,” Williams said. “They fill out a zero, and in that six years, it was zero. But there are people who have graduated since then. Why doesn’t the NCAA send this as a note?”\

\ Personally, I look at graduation rates with a jaundiced eye for several reasons. One, they often cover players who were not recruited and sometimes not even coached by the current man in charge. That doesn’t apply here, but it often does. (In the case of Maryland football and its 69 percent total, Ralph Friedgen coached most of the players involved but they all arrived under Ron Vanderlinden’s watch). Either way, the data is old even if it is considered new.\

\ Secondly, there has to be some way to take into account guys leaving for the pros. The Academic Progress Rate - better known as the APR - does a far better job of noting this discrepancy. Chances are, a team that wins a national title (as Maryland did in 2002) will have its share of pros on its roster, and a shiny rookie contract in the NBA or just a chance to shoot jumpers in Europe is awfully appealing. After all, that money will dry up for most players within a decade.\

\ But that big honking zero stands out, and even Williams knows it. More recent events - be it the mass migration of his senior class two seasons ago after the NIT loss to Manhattan or the reality Will Bowers, Parrish Brown and Ekene Ibekwe earned degrees last spring - don’t factor into this data, and Williams said both James Gist and Bambale Osby are on track to graduate after this season.\

\ I’ll let Gary have the last word tonight, since chances are he’ll hear about that single round digit more often than he’d like to in the future.\

\ “In the 18 years I’ve been here, 42 of my seniors have graduated,” Williams said. “That’s over two a year. That’s significant. … If you look at the facts, three of those [10] people have graduated. It just gets old.”\

\ – Patrick Stevens