The NCAA has a rather convoluted way of measuring graduation rates. All you will probably read about in the papers is some version of the headline above, and that's fine. It's certainly better than the misleading headlines you may have read last year, despite being equally as misleading in its own way.
How were they misleading? According to the 2007 data, Rutgers football had a 55% graduation rate. Look closer at that number though. It's a four year average of incoming students between 1997 and 2000. This is because the NCAA gives student-athletes six years to graduate, and then it takes an additional year to compile all of the data. That means, of the data released last year, not a single player referenced was recruited by Greg Schiano. He did coach some of them, but the six-year rate was surely depressed by the fact that any coaching change undoubtedly brings significant roster turnover.
How significant is this? Well, according to the 2008 data, the four year average jumped 15 points when dropping the 1997 class, and adding Greg Schiano's first recruiting class in 2001. That gives the impression that the 2001 class did very well in the classroom. Tthe Star-Ledger did some digging earlier this year into exactly how well that 2001 class performed.
Eleven of the 18 players (61 percent) that Schiano brought to Rutgers his first year earned degrees, and 14 of Schiano's 20 recruits in 2002 have already graduated (70 percent).
Those numbers are likely to fall off for the class that entered in 2003, which experienced significantly more turnover than Schiano's first two classes as the quality of players Schiano recruited in later years continued to improve -- meaning some of the earlier recruits were benched for younger, more talented players.
"That's what happens when you are building a program." Schiano explained. "You recruit over some of your players."
The rest of that article is well worth reading for more detailed statistics on the matter.
I still think the overall methodology for measuring graduation rates is ridiculous. What relevance do players who were on the team a decade ago have to the team's academic performance today? Rutgers justly hangs its hat on its 977 APR score, which is far more relevant as it quantifies academic performance from between the 2003 and 2006 seasons. The NCAA's graduation rate does not measure the awesome academic performance of a Jeremy Zuttah, nor the less-impressive grades of players that I will not mention.
Still, kudos to the student athletes, the coaching staff, and the athletic department for midwifing a major increase in performance in that one year. They deserve the headlines they get tomorrow, as RU's academic support staff is terrific and one of the few unquestioned bright spots in the athletic department.
Addendum: this has some more-detailed demographic data that was reported to the Department of Education.