The Washington Times - October 15, 2008, 02:06PM

As mentioned a bit earlier today, few things fire up Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams like the release of graduation rate data.

And then, on top of that, the fact Maryland offers up an additional release that also includes the information the NCAA first disseminates.

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“I don’t mind saying I’m not sure why we release figures when no one else releases it,” Williams said. “I’m proud of what we’re doing academically. I’m proud of what we’ve done the last three years.”

As well he probably should be, with the 5-for-7 grad rate the last two years and a 1-for-1 likely this season. But the whole “issuing a release” thing interested me.

Let’s face two realities up front. One, a release is usually going to be cheery and sometimes explanatory. The one Maryland put out yesterday was both, from the headlines “Maryland GSR continues to rise” and “Three Terp teams post perfect NCAA graduation success rate” to a description about halfway through of how nine of 10 men’s basketball players who began school between 1998 and 2001 left before graduating to pursue pro careers in attempt to provide context.

A school can point to whatever it sees fit. But since this is the real world, the numbers that will get scrutinized the most are the ones of teams that are regularly covered.

For the purposes of this paper, those teams would be men’s basketball (10 percent), women’s basketball (67 percent), football (68 percent) and men’s lacrosse (89 percent). Most people are only going to look at the two big money-makers – men’s basketball and football. Not all people, but most.

Those were the first two numbers I specifically scanned for. It’s likely many others did the same.

So, in what is really sort of an odd question, I asked senior associate athletic director Kathleen Worthington why the school issued a release – given that the eyeballs are going to be drawn to men’s hoops based on its prominent spot in the athletic department and its history of grad rates that have made consistent (if sometimes shallow) headlines in past years.

“The GSR and the federal graduation rates aren’t about one program,” Worthington said. “They’re about the whole department. We have a number of items that we want to highlight. We want to get the information out so when people ask why the rate was so low, we could explain some of what was behind it. I don’t think it’s negative. Some schools choose not to do releases, but since [academic achievement] is something we strive for very strongly we want to get that word out just as much as our win-loss record.”

OK, that’s two ways of looking at whether to issue a release or not. But one thing still bugged me last night: Just how many schools do releases?

Well, let me assure you – going through 73 websites from power conference basketball schools is not a quick bit of work. I’m basing these findings on whether it was reasonably easy to find a release on the front page of a site (so no promises this is a full list). I did it around 9-11 p.m. last night, so not much could have bumped a release out of a prominent spot on an athletic department website.

Overall, I found 12 schools that did one. Here’s a conference-by-conference rundown:

* Boston College, Duke, Maryland and Miami in the ACC
* Cincinnati and Louisville from the Big East
* Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue from the Big Ten
* Baylor from the Big 12
* Washington from the Pac-10
* Florida from the SEC

So overall, that’s roughly one out of six schools. It’s not “no one,” but it probably isn’t quite as prevalent as a lot of folks would guess, either.

Patrick Stevens