Last week the NCAA released a report on student athlete graduation rates and the latest figures show an overall graduation success rate of 76% among all division one schools. Considering the wide social and economic disparities among these schools the rate looks pretty good at first blush. Yet when you take a deeper look at the numbers two things stand out. One is that the NCAA defines a successful on time graduation as one that occurs within six years of the time the athlete started his or her education. Don’t most students graduate in 4-5 years? The second thing is that the graduation success rate apparently isn’t based strictly on how many student athletes graduated within six years but is the result of a formula that I was unable to decipher.
At my alma mater, the University of Maryland they proudly announced that their graduation success rate had reached 70% which is a record high. Only administrators could be proud of a 70% success rate. Isn’t that normally a C on a traditional grading scale? Did University President Mote take note of rival Georgetown’s 91% rate?
I am only bringing this up because yesterday the university announced that senior Chris McCray, a starter and key element on the basketball team has been declared academically ineligible. He failed to maintain a 2.0 average last semester. So a season that was so promising now stands to end in mediocrity.
How did this happen? Apparently McCray decided that as a senior he didn’t need to attend class all that often and maybe he would get a pass because he is the star player for the team. McCray’s mother is very upset and blames the University for not informing her earlier of her son’s academic problems. The university for its part says they didn’t know until a few days ago that there was a problem. The coach Gary Williams has taken the blame for not staying on top of things, but Williams who is in his 28th year of coaching has never lost a player due to academic issues in the middle of the year and probably didn’t expect it to happen this year either. But it is Chris McCray who is ultimately responsible for what happened.
What is interesting about this is that Maryland spends $1.2 million on staff and resources to help student athletes so that they remain eligible and hopefully graduate. I realize how important a successful athletic program is to prestige and fundraising, but if the graduation rate is only at 70% for the athletes aren’t they falling short of their responsibility to help these young men and women prepare for their future? After all the average professional sports career is a relatively short 3-4 years. They need a good education to fall back on when their career ends.
Maybe next to their won-lost records the coaches can list the graduation rates so that we can see how successful they really have been.
Don Irvine is the Chairman of Accuracy in Media, Accuracy in Academia’s parent organization.