- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Maryland men’s basketball program produced a 0 percent graduation success rate according to data released yesterday by the NCAA, a figure whose validity coach Gary Williams disputed last night.

Anton Goff, Maryland’s associate athletic director for academic support and career development, said the rate covers 10 scholarship players who began their careers between the fall of 1997 and fall of 2000. Williams contends three earned degrees somewhere even if those did not occur in the six-year stretch the NCAA uses.

“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.”

Maryland’s rate fell from 18 percent last year. The Terrapins ranked last in the ACC, with only three other schools (Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Clemson) below the national average of 63.6 percent.

Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter, Juan Dixon, Byron Mouton and Chris Wilcox — the five starters on the 2002 national title team — are all part of the group. Goff said all 10 players played at some professional level, whether in the United States or overseas.

“Juan Dixon is [making] around $3 million,” Williams said. “Steve Blake just signed for $4 million a year for three years. Drew Nicholas is making $900,000 playing over in Spain this year. Chris Wilcox is in his third year of making $6.5 million a year. Are these people failures?”

Unlike federal graduation rates, the NCAA does not penalize schools for players who transfer in good academic standing and credits schools for graduating players who transfer in.

Other basketball graduation success rates among local schools included Georgetown (82 percent), Virginia (80 percent), George Washington (70 percent), Virginia Tech (67 percent) and George Mason (53 percent).

The performance of area schools in football included Navy (95 percent), Virginia Tech (72 percent), Maryland (69 percent) and Virginia (68 percent). Maryland’s graduation rate was eighth in the ACC but still surpassed the national average for the NCAA’s bowl subdivision in football (66.6 percent).

“Tough school,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I do the best I can. That’s all I can do. Guys that stick around, they graduate. Guys that don’t stick around don’t graduate.”

Three of Maryland’s five basketball scholarship seniors last season — Will Bowers, Parrish Brown and Ekene Ibekwe — graduated last spring. Those players don’t count in this metric, though, and there is no way to conceal the low figure.

“Obviously, we’re aware of the zero. It isn’t something we’re proud of. …,” Goff said. “That’s one of those things that even though we just graduated three of five, we’re not going to see the results for a couple years down the road. We understand that. Everybody understands the implication of a zero.”

Williams, though, argued the data does not reflect anything about 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?”

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