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NCAA releases graduation success rate data

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Chalk up another impressive off-the-field accomplishment for Coach Greg Schiano and his Rutgers Scarlet Knights football program. According to official statistics released by the NCAA today, Rutgers football's graduation success rate stands at 88%, seven points higher than the listed number in the 2009 report. The team's federal graduation rate also increased from 65% to 68%. RU's numbers have steadily increased under Schiano, jumping from 55% before any of Schiano's recruits were counted to 70%, 81%, and now 88%.

Clearly the Rutgers athletic department is doing something right. There were also impressive gains registered across the board in sports like men's and women's basketball, with Rutgers registering the best collective scores of any Big East conference athletic department not counting Notre Dame, which does not participate in BE football.

What do all of these numbers mean? Of Rutgers football recruits that entered the program between 2000 and 2003, 88% had a diploma after six years in school. The graduation success rate statistic as a rolling average of four classes.

Two different measures of graduation rates are presented in this report: (1) freshman-cohort rate, and (2) Graduation Success Rate (GSR). The freshman-cohort rate indicates the percentage of freshmen who entered during a given academic year and graduated within six years. The GSR adds to the first-time freshmen, those students who entered midyear, as well as student-athletes who transferred into an institution. In addition, the GSR will subtract students from the entering cohort who are considered allowable exclusions (those who either die or become permanently disabled, those who leave the school to join the armed forces, foreign services or attend a church  mission), as well as those who would have been academically eligible to compete had they returned to the institution.

The NCAA deems its GSR statistic to be more accurate than the federal government's methodology, which does not count transfer students. You may also question the usefulness of including data that is up to a decade old. That is a valid concern, and one of the reasons to use APR instead.

Now, where the federal rate data is useful is for giving demographic breakdowns of each program. For instance, Rutgers has a 89% graduation success rate for African American football players. Someone will have to go through all of the released data again, but last year RU ranked in elite company on that metric.

Nationally, Rutgers is an elite company. The Scarlet Knights rank eighth (narrowly edging out Stanford) in GSR, coming in behind Notre Dame, Duke, Northwestern, Rice, Navy, Boston College, and Vanderbilt.

Here is a comparison of Rutgers to its football conference breathren. All data taken from here.

School GSR Fed rate
Rutgers 88 68
Cincinnati 81 72
Connecticut 77 61
Syracuse 76 63
West Virginia 72 53
Pittsburgh 69 56
Louisville 63 49
South Florida 46 42


For reference, the NCAA average GSR during that time period is 67%.

That USF score does not reflect well on Jim Leavitt, considering how the program narrowly avoided NCAA sanctions for several consecutive poor finishes. If you think that number is bad though, get a load of UConn's 31% graduation success rate in men's basketball. Wow. Jim Calhoun blames a high number of transfers for that figure, but the GSR hypothetically takes those into account. UConn is in trouble here because players left school in bad academic standing.

Other egregiously poor football offenders include Oklahoma at 44%, Texas at 49%, Arizona at 48%, and surprisingly, Georgia Tech at only 49%. I can't even look at the men's basketball data because it is so horrifically depressing on all fronts. On this front, Rutgers athletics can hold its head up high. DI athletics are not a level playing field though. If RU is not willing to play in the gutter, then they ought to lobby for more NCAA academic regulation.