College athletes outperform others in class

Thursday, November 19, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- College athletes still are setting records and dispelling myths -- in the classroom.

Just like the late NCAA president Myles Brand believed they could.

The NCAA's latest graduation numbers show nearly four out of five student-athletes earn their diplomas on time, an all-time high, and federal statistics show athletes still are more likely to graduate on time than other students.

"The misconception is that NCAA student-athletes are not good students," interim NCAA president Jim Isch said in a conference call Wednesday. "The truth, as Myles reminded people, is that they could perform in the classroom and they outperformed the general student body in almost every measure."

NCAA statistics show 79 percent of all freshmen entering school in 2002-03 graduated within six years, matching last year's record high. The four-class average, for students entering college between the fall of 1999 and the fall of 2002, also was 79 percent, a 1 percentage point increase over last year's record.

The federal numbers are lower, 64 percent for athletes, but still 2 percentage points higher than the general student body that does not have access to all the assistance provided to student-athletes.

Federal statistics do not include the performance of transfer students. So if an athlete enrolls at one school, then transfers to another, neither school receives credit if the athlete graduates.

NCAA officials believe the improving numbers can be attributed to stronger eligibility standards for incoming freshmen and a greater emphasis on academics during Brand's tenure as president.

"I think everyone understands how much this has changed the culture on campus and I expect that will continue to be the case in the future," said Walter Harrison, chairman of the committee on academic performance. "I think coaches are clearly more aware of the Academic Progress Rate. They know how it's calculated, and most importantly they know that they have to do well in the classroom and stay on track to graduate."

Female athletes outperformed their male counterparts, 88 percent to 72 percent. Women's basketball came in at 83 percent under NCAA guidelines and 64 percent on the federal report.

Men's basketball and Football Championship Subdivision teams (formerly Division I-AA) had the lowest rates of any sports, coming in at 64 percent under NCAA calculations. Basketball players scored 48 percent on the federal report, while FCS athletes were at 54 percent. Baseball came in at 69 percent on the NCAA study, but had 47 percent on the federal report.

Four of the five Southeast Missouri State men's programs came in under the national averages in their sport under the NCAA's calculcations and federal rate. Cross country/track was the lone program to exceed the national averages with a score of 79 percent under the NCAA's guidelines and 76 percent on the federal report. Men's basketball came in at 30 percent, while baseball was at 48 percent under the NCAA guidelines. Football finished at 37 percent, basketball at 43 percent and baseball at 9 percent on the federal report.

On the women's side, five of the seven Southeast programs matched or exceeded the national averages for their sport under the NCAA's guidelines and three exceeded the national average for their sport on the federal report. Gymnastics, tennis and volleyball scored a perfect 100 percent under the NCAA guidelines, while soccer came in at 91 percent. According to the federal report, basketball was at 63 percent, cross country/track at 75 percent, gymnastics at 64 percent, soccer at 78 percent, softball at 46 percent, tennis at 45 percent and volleyball at 78 percent.

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