President Mark Emmert responds to a question during
an interview Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, in Indianapolis.
— NCAA President Mark Emmert keeps touting the
record-breaking graduation rates of Division I athletes.
Critics keep balking at the interpretation of those
numbers, citing recent academic scandals.
NCAA's newest graduation report, released Tuesday, showed
84 percent of athletes who entered college in 2007-08
earned a degree within six years, a 2 percentage-point
increase over last year's previous high mark. The
four-year average of 82 percent is another record, up 1
percentage point from the 2013 report. Emmert also said
there were increases in almost all demographics in the
one-year measurement — some rare good news for a
governing body in tumult.
the highest (rate) ever by a good measure and it's up
virtually across the board — football, basketball, all
other sports, men, women, all races included," Emmert
told The Associated Press. "So it's the best academic
performance we've ever seen."
federal numbers show a similar trend.
four-year period covering freshmen classes from 2004-07,
athletes graduated at a rate of 65 percent, 1 point higher
than the general student body. The 2006-07 freshmen class
also set a record, 66 percent, compared with 65 percent of
difference in rates is that the NCAA counts athletes who
transfer in good academic standing and graduate from
another school. The feds do not.
question the NCAA's stats contend the higher numbers are
skewed because athletes have more access to tutors,
learning specialists and multimillion-dollar academic
centers — all of which are intended to keep players
academically eligible and on track to graduate. They also
believe athletes are sometimes being advised to take
really is happening is that athletes are being funneled
into the majors of least resistance," said Oklahoma
professor Gerald Gurney, president of The Drake Group, an
NCAA watchdog. "They really, based on their athletic
commitment, do not have an opportunity to pursue an
education at all, much less a world-class education."
year, the critics have even more ammunition thanks to a
series of high-profile academic scandals.
August, Notre Dame suspended five football players for
alleged academic misconduct. One player has returned to
practice but none have been reinstated to play.
this month, media reports said Syracuse's football and
men's basketball teams face an NCAA hearing over alleged
rules violations that include academic impropriety.
week, former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth
Wainstein issued a report accusing the University of North
Carolina of academic fraud in the formerly named African
and Afro-American Studies department (AFAM). More than
3,100 students — about half of them athletes —
benefited from sham classes and artificially high grades
over nearly two decades, Wainstein wrote.
said Monday if Wainstein's report is accurate, it
"strikes at the heart of what higher education is
Gurney believes those three cases are part of a larger,
think what you see at UNC, at Syracuse, at Notre Dame is
that marginal students are being forced to commit academic
dishonesty or the universities are joining them in an
effort to keep them eligible and retaining them,"
Gurney said. "I'm sure that's not what Mark Emmert
wants to hear, but it's the truth."
contends the recent improvements are related to linking
postseason tournament eligibility to Academic Progress
believes a new set of more stringent academic requirements
for incoming freshmen, which take effect in 2016-17, will
push the Graduation Success Rate even higher than the goal
established years ago by the Committee on Academic
Performance, 80 percent overall.
now we're over that at 84, but we have some programs that
aren't quite there yet," Emmert said. "We're at
75 percent in football, 74 in men's basketball. ... We're
getting pretty close to a point where we're not going to
claim victory and quit, but we're certainly going to be
very pleased if we can get a little bit higher in those
other sports. ... We're pleased. Satisfied? No. But
notable statistics in the NCAA report showed:
Overall, athletes have increased their graduation rate by
10 percentage points since the tracking began in 1995-96.
One-year numbers in football and men's basketball continue
to climb. FBS players graduated at a record high of 75
percent, a 4 percentage-point increase over the 2006
freshman class. FCS teams rated improved by 3 percentage
points to 72. And men's basketball came in at 74 percent,
one point better than 2005-06.
males, black males and black females all showed a
3-percentage point improvement over the previous year. The
number of white females earning degrees went up 2 points
to 93 percent.