Though similarities are hard to notice between the basketball teams at Loyola College and Nevada-Las Vegas, a recent survey reports that both had identical 0 percent graduation for their men's basketball programs.
Is that a cause for alarm at Loyola? Hardly, said Loyola athletic director Jim Boylan, who dismisses the results of survey as an "aberration."
"Obviously, at Loyola you're disappointed when the people don't graduate," Boylan said. "But our graduation rate, we'll stand up to anybody, anywhere in the country."
The "aberration" in the survey, released this week by The Chronicle of Higher Education, is that the results are based on athletes who entered college for the 1984-85 school year and who graduated by August 1989. In the case of Loyola, all three basketball players entering the school that season eventually graduated -- and were counted against the school's graduation rate.
"Generally speaking, we graduate 90 percent of our athletes over a 10-year period in basketball," Boylan said. "I think for a study like this you have to take a decade, or five years. Year in and year out, you'll see different graduation rates."
While some schools contacted yesterday have questioned the numbers coming out of the survey of 262 Division I schools (33 colleges did not respond), all welcomed the further discussion of college athletics. The discussion picked up last week with the release of a report by the Knight Commission, which suggested school presidents take the initiative in instilling integrity in athletic programs.
The Chronicle's survey revealed that while athletes graduate at a higher rate than non-athletes, the numbers drop sharply with football and basketball players. Fifty-six percent of athletes graduate in five years, but the rate for football at the top 106 (Division I-A) schools was 42 percent, with basketball reporting the poorest rate with less than 39 percent.
At Maryland, the rate was 11.1 percent for football and 0 for basketball.
"I was not pleased with the numbers, but there were no surprises," university president William E. Kirwan said last night. "We've made some changes since 1984, and we're going to see some improvements in the coming years."
Kirwan blamed the numbers on upheaval in the basketball and football programs.
"In basketball, so many players have left school and, although they may graduate elsewhere, it doesn't count toward the graduation rate at Maryland," Kirwan said. "In football, we had a change of coach at that time, and typically that has an effect."
At the Naval Academy, athletes graduate at a rate of 80.3 percent, but that figure drops to 55.6 percent among basketball players.
"We had three guys who didn't want to stay at the Naval Academy who transferred in good academic standing," athletic director Jack Lengyel said. "It just supports the old adage, 'You can make statistics tell you anything you want.'
"It's giving some information, but it doesn't tell the whole story. But using it as a benchmark is certainly important, because graduation is what it's all about. If athletics has problems, education has problems. We're a microcosm of education."
Nancy Reed, an assistant athletic director at Towson State, said she was discouraged when she first sent in the numbers, but felt better after comparing the Towson figures with other institutions. Still, Reed said that basing the findings on just one entering class is not fair.