Expert slams Terrapins' grad rate

Knight member: 0 percent `an atrocity'

Maryland Men's Basketball

October 05, 2007|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN REPORTER

The Maryland men's basketball team's 0 percent graduation rate for players entering school from 1997 to 2000 is "an atrocity," a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics said yesterday.

Commission member Hodding Carter III, a public policy professor at the University of North Carolina, said he was concerned not only about Maryland's graduation rate, but also about men's basketball programs around the country whose rates lag behind those of other sports.

The overall rate for men's basketball players who graduated within six years was 61 percent, lowest among 18 men's sports, according to NCAA data released this week. That compares to 77 percent of athletes in all sports who enrolled from 1997 to 2000.

"Too many schools treat them [men's basketball players] essentially as disposable mercenaries as opposed to students," said Carter, a former U.S. State Department spokesman who taught journalism at the University of Maryland in the 1990s. He is a member of the Knight Commission, a college sports watchdog group comprising college presidents and others.

Carter said men's basketball players often seem to make unspoken deals with their colleges. "It's, `I'm going to come give you a couple good years, and education is not the point of my involvement,' " he said. "It's a betrayal of the kids' long-term interest."

Asked about Maryland's rate, Carter said: "That's an atrocity, man, and the atrocity is being committed against the kids. What's bothersome is this doesn't seem to bother an awful lot of people unless the team is losing."

But another professor said it might be too soon to determine whether Maryland is on the wrong course. Duke law professor Paul Haagen, co-director of the Center for Sports Law and Policy, said it's hard to make assumptions based on basketball teams' graduation rates. That's because the teams have relatively few players, particularly compared to football, and statistical samples are relatively small, Haagen said.

"At Maryland, this could be a series of relatively discrete events that don't amount to much," Haagen said. "If it happens for very long, it's clearly a problem."

Maryland's 0 percent figure means that none of the starters or top reserves on the Terps' 2002 national championship team graduated within six years of entering school. In a news release, Maryland noted that all 10 freshmen and transfer basketball players measurable by the graduation success rate scores left school to pursue professional careers. "These people are very successful people," Maryland coach Gary Williams said.

A year ago, the NCAA calculated the men's basketball team's graduation success rate at 18 percent, ranking it at the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The rate was listed at 30 percent in 2005, also last in the conference.

Maryland officials said this week that even the latest data doesn't measure the current climate. 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.

Maryland's football program improved its graduation success rate from 64 percent in last year's figures to 69 percent. The university said 10 of its teams had rates at 80 percent or above.

Haagen said top men's basketball players face unusual pressure to leave school early.

"The ethos in basketball is if that you don't leave early, the assumption is there's something wrong about their game," Haagen said.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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