- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2005

Nearly three-quarters of the teams at area Division I schools matched or scored better than the national average in the NCAA’s initial graduation success rate study released yesterday by the organization.

NCAA president Myles Brand said during a teleconference the national average GSR of scholarship athletes was 76 percent, far higher than the 62 percent based on federal government guidelines that account for players who transfer or turn pro differently. Of the 159 programs at the nine local and major regional Division I schools, 119 had GSRs of at least 76 percent.

Navy was the only area school with all of its programs above the national average. All 19 of its programs graduated at least 97 percent.

The calculations were made over a six-year period and included athletes who entered school between 1995 and 1998. The most recent group in the study had until summer 2004 to graduate in order to help a school’s GSR. Nonscholarship players are not counted.

Figures among notable area teams included George Washington men’s basketball (55 percent), Georgetown men’s basketball (50 percent), Maryland men’s basketball (30 percent), Maryland football (63 percent) and Navy football (98 percent).

While somewhat interesting, this data set will not be used by the NCAA to dole out sanctions to programs. The GSR is meant to serve as an indicator of a team’s historical academic performance, with the academic progress rate designed to provide a real-time glimpse at the players currently on a team.

The first APR figures were released earlier this year, with 925 of a possible 1,000 (reflecting 50 percent of athletes remaining eligible) serving as a cut score, and the next set of APR scores is scheduled for release in February. The NCAA plans to issue sanctions to underperforming programs starting next year, with habitual offenders potentially receiving scholarship reductions and postseason bans.

University of Hartford president Walter Harrison, chairman of the NCAA’s committee on academic performance, said poor GSRs would be used against only “the worst of the worst” programs in the later phases of punishment.

“The APR is what will cause schools to lose scholarships, not this,” said Anton Goff, Maryland assistant athletic director for academic support and career development.

The most notable change in the NCAA’s methodology is counting players who transfer into a program toward the team’s graduation rate. Teams also are no longer penalized for players who transfer or turn pro while in good academic standing. Both factors were long-time sources of complaints from basketball coaches, who took significant hits when players departed because of their small roster sizes.

The federal government’s calculation, used by the NCAA until the introduction of the GSR, does not include players who transfer into a program and counts players who turn pro early or transfer against the overall graduation rate, regardless of academic standing.

The adjustment led to significant jumps in several sports, including baseball (47 percent to 65 percent), men’s basketball (44 percent to 58 percent) and football (54 percent to 64 percent).

“If I have a young man whose mother is sick and he transfers home, we’re getting hit,” Goff said. “If he transfers in and he stays three years and graduates, I get no credit for that. The GSR is the way to get some credit for those types of things.”

It also works the other direction. A program reliant on transfers who never graduate was able to slip through relatively undetected under the federal guidelines that made transfer students virtually invisible. With the GSR, that tendency will be revealed.

“If you have a lot of those students coming into the program and they’re not succeeding, the GSR will be lower,” Brand said. “We can pick up those trends that can’t be picked up by the APR and the federal rate.”

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