UM men's basketball grad rate falls again

None of 1997-2000 recruits got degree within six years

October 04, 2007|By Childs Walker and Heather A. Dinich | Childs Walker and Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporters

The University of Maryland men's basketball team was the only one in the country that failed to graduate within six years any of its recruits who entered school between 1997 and 2000, NCAA statistics released yesterday showed.

The program's graduation success rate, calculated by an NCAA formula, fell for the third straight year at a time when graduation rates are rising nationally for men's basketball programs. The GSR shows that none of the starters and top reserves of Maryland's 2002 national championship team graduated within six years of entering school.

"They had a lot of on-court success, but we would've liked more off-court success," said Anton Goff, associate athletic director for academic support and career development. "For some reason or other, that didn't happen as far as graduation rates are concerned. We can't change the number now. We're not happy about it, but it was 10 years ago."

"These people are very successful people," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "If you go to school to improve yourself economically, where have they failed? They make more than the average college graduate. Far more. If you're judging them just based on getting a degree, then OK, they haven't gotten a degree."

Yesterday's report featured positive news for the Maryland football program, which improved its GSR to 69 percent, from 64 percent the previous year. For the second straight year, that number ranks eighth among 12 Atlantic Coast Conference schools, though it's higher than the 64.7 percent national average for football.

"Tough school," coach Ralph Friedgen said when asked about the scores. "I'm doing the best I can, that's all I can do. The guys that stick around, they graduate. Guys that don't stick around, don't graduate."

In a news release addressing the statistics, Maryland noted that all 10 of the freshmen and transfer basketball players measurable by the GSR left school to pursue professional careers.

That list includes Chris Wilcox, who left school early to enter the NBA draft. It also includes Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Steve Blake, Terrence Morris, Tahj Holden and Drew Nicholas, who played four years at Maryland and went on to play in the NBA or overseas.

Byron Mouton, Jamar Smith and Ryan Randle transferred into the program and played two seasons each at Maryland before playing in various pro leagues.

The GSR should not be confused with the academic progress rate, or APR, a current semester-by-semester snapshot of academic eligibility, graduation and retention. Maryland could lose two basketball scholarships if its APR score, expected to be released in May, does not improve from this year's mark.

The school faces no potential penalties because of the GSR data released yesterday.

Goff said the GSR score doesn't reflect the current state of the program. "You're looking a while back," he said. "Three of five scholarship players graduated last year, but we won't see that for awhile. Our progress now gets reported later on."

The basketball program also ranked last in the ACC last year with an 18 percent GSR.

Goff said that one of the 10 players measured by this year's GSR graduated after the six-year window and that two other players transferred and graduated from other schools. He said some players measured by the GSR are still working toward degrees.

"We encourage our players to come back," Williams said. "I've had 42 players graduate in my 18 years of coaching, and probably nine or 10 of them don't count in any NCAA formula because they didn't graduate in the period by the NCAA."

Last year, four of the six Maryland seniors graduated, and both current seniors on the roster are on pace to graduate in four years, Williams said.

The GSR will rise above zero next year because at least one player graduated from the next class measured, Goff said.

Basketball scores can change more quickly than football scores because the sport features so many fewer players.

The latest GSR figures show that 77 percent of student-athletes who began college from 1997-2000 graduated within six years, similar to the data released last year.

NCAA officials were pleased with the overall progress of men's basketball, where the success rate rose from 55.8 percent in 1995 to 63.6 percent in 2000. Football increased from 63.1 percent to 66.6 percent for teams competing for Division I bowl bids between 1995 and 2000.

"Overall, the trend data is up and it's very heartening," said the NCAA's president, Myles Brand.

Brand said in a conference call that he hopes every NCAA program will eventually clear 60 percent. Among Maryland teams, only the baseball, men's tennis and men's basketball programs failed to meet that mark. The women's soccer, golf and gymnastics programs all achieved 100 percent scores.childs.walker@baltsun.com heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Kevin Van Valkenburg and Damon Curry contributed to this article.

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