Progress of student athletes reviewed

Student-athletes have a higher graduation rate than nonathletes at the University.

Lora Pabst

Academic success for student-athletes can be defined numerous ways, depending on whom you ask.

University student-athletes graduate at an acceptable rate, 67 percent, according to data released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Athletes also have a higher graduation rate than nonathletes at the University.

Graduation rates are required by the federal government to gauge academic progress, but they are controversial for several reasons.

The data for the graduation success rate comes from two sources: athletes who started school in 1998 and the averages of the graduation rates for the classes entering school in 1995 to 1998.

The NCAA also measures an academic progress rate that uses data from each academic semester. This data has not been released yet.

Gophers athletes had a 63 percent graduation rate for students who started school in 1998. The national Division I average for this category was 62 percent. The four-class average for students in school from 1995 to 1998 was 60 percent compared with the 62 percent Division I national average.

University Athletics Director Joel Maturi said the graduation success rate system used by the NCAA is not the best system for determining academic success.

“The GSR doesn’t reflect what’s happening on campus. These are athletes that are no longer here,” Maturi said.

The academic progress rate is measured twice a year so the data is more recent.

“The APR keeps coaches, counselors and (student-athletes) on their toes,” he said.

Compared with the other Big Ten schools, the University has the second-lowest student-athlete graduation rates. Ohio State has the lowest rates.

But the student-athletes here aren’t the only ones with low graduation rates. The University’s student population has the lowest graduation rate in the Big Ten conference according to NCAA data.

That same data reveals that the University is one of only three Big Ten schools in which student-athletes have higher graduation rates than nonathlete students.

“The environment of the University is the single most important factor in grad rates,” Maturi said. “We graduate our athletes more than the rest of the students, which many of our (Big Ten) counterparts don’t do. We’re proud of that.”

Maturi said the University and the athletics department still have a lot of work to do to increase graduation rates.

“We need to improve, as does (the University),” he said.

Frank Kara, director of athletics compliance, said the graduation success rate system looks, in part, at an average over four years, but the academic progress rate looks at recent data.

“This is an evolving program,” he said. “They continue to change how to do the measurements.”

Maturi said the NCAA will not yet impose penalties for schools that do not meet academic progress rates. It is waiting for more data but the penalties could begin as soon as fall.

The penalties would be based on the semester academic progress rate and could include teams losing scholarships or possibly being banned from postseason competition.