The Washington Times - October 15, 2008, 08:52AM

Covering Gary Williams provides the distinct opportunity to see the man’s many moods —- charming, sarcastic, defiant, confident, competitive, defensive, relaxed (yes, relaxed) —- and a whole lot in between.

Often, it’s tough to guess which one is coming. Except on two days each year. Then you know exactly what you’re going to get.


When graduation rates and the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate data are released, Williams is quite the firebrand. And, really, on a lot of fronts I don’t blame him at all.

I get into Williams’ reaction to the Maryland basketball program’s 10 percent graduation success rate in a dead-tree edition story today, as well as a few other things. You can read more about the GSR from Jeff Amoros in the Diamondback and Jeff Barker in the Baltimore Sun.

The thing that is inescapable about graduation rate data is simply how old it is. This subset includes all of the scholarship athletes who entered school between the fall of 1998 and fall of 2001. So that means Lonny Baxter still counts. For football purposes, it means Guilian Gary, E.J. Henderson, Calvin McCall, Marc Riley, Durrand Roundtree and Todd Wike still count. It seems like those guys were around forever ago.

I don’t know off the top of my head which guys on that list graduated and which didn’t. That’s not the point. Whether they did or didn’t, any data including them simply doesn’t reflect the current conditions in any program. It just can’t.

Let’s put it another way: If the GSR was somehow applied to Maryland’s journalism or social sciences schools, I would still count in the evaluation. Given that graduation is nearly 6 1/2 years in my rear-view mirror, that seems absurd. So while the numbers are the numbers, do they really mean anything?

Williams mentioned the professional success of the players who counted in this evaluation —- Baxter, Chris Wilcox, Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas to name a few. Some of those guys have made 50 times more money than a lot of graduates have in that span, trading on an ability that rapidly depreciates with age. As the saying I heard countless times growing up goes, make hay while the sun shines.

Still, the 10 percent number isn’t, how to put this, visually appealing. On its own, it doesn’t look very good, regardless of whether it offers a glimpse into the state of the program in 2002 or 2008.

(By the way, here’s a rundown of the GSRs from other basketball national champions who would have had players from this data subset: Connecticut, 33 percent; Michigan State, 60 percent; Duke, 89 percent; Syracuse, 50 percent; North Carolina, 86 percent).

You can’t blame Williams’ superiors for wanting a number a bit closer to the national average. Perception is perception.

But it just seems a little unseemly for anyone to wail about this data when (a) Guys wanted to cash in on their perishable skills; (b) Williams has shown improvement the last two years in graduating players, with five of seven scholarship seniors earning degrees, so it’s not like there isn’t some progress; and (c) The talented players who pursued pro ball rather than graduate earlier this decade were the ones who delivered that big crystal trophy in the Comcast Center lobby.

Here’s guessing very few Maryland fans would give that back if they could only have a sterling grad rate.

—- Patrick Stevens