WASHINGTON – The University of Maryland, College Park, graduates 79 percent of its student-athletes, but almost half of its teams have rates that fall below the national average in their sport, according to figures released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tuesday.
“I think it (the rate) is good,” said Senior Associate Athletics Director Kathleen Worthington. “It shows progress from the past. I think every year we’ve increased.”
Maryland’s NCAA graduation success rate was 78 percent last year and 76 percent two years ago.
The most recent GSR report looks at freshmen with athletic scholarships who enrolled at the university between the fall of 1998 and the fall of 2001 and graduated within the NCAA’s specified six-year window. The GSR was developed to give more accurate statistics on athletes who graduate than another measure used by the NCAA called the federal graduation rate by including transfer students and mid-year enrollees.
The federal rate for athletes entering the university in the 2001-2002 school year was 68 percent, 11 points behind the rate of 80 percent for all university students.
The University of Maryland’s high athlete graduation rates are the result of a combination of factors, Associate Athletic Director for Academic Support and Career Development Anton Goff said, including the programs and staff in his department as well as the attitude of the coaching staff and athletes that academics are important. Even the improved facilities have helped, including the department’s move from Cole Field House to the Comcast Center.
“The student athletes that we recruit here are academic conscious,” Goff said.
While the university’s GSR is high — one point above the overall Division I rate of 78 percent — nine of its teams fall below the national rate for that sport.
The men’s basketball team received the lowest rate among the university’s 21 teams at 10 percent, well below the national rate of 62 percent.
“Nine of the 10 players included in that cohort had left early to go play professional basketball,” Worthington said.
One of those nine players returned to graduate, she added, but it was after the six-year window closed.
The men’s basketball coaches were only available for comment on Tuesday.
The women’s basketball team also fell below the overall rate of 82 percent for its sport, graduating 67 percent of its players.
Women’s soccer, golf and gymnastics graduated all of their athletes during the period, and nine other teams had rates of more than 80 percent.
The Academic Career Support and Development Unit has academic counselors who work with the athletes.
“Our goal is that when they get to their last season of eligibility, they have less than 12 credits to earn their degrees,” Worthington said.
Because the men’s basketball team has a lower graduation rate, they have more academic staff to work with the players, including staff who travel with them to away games, Goff said.
“We have an academic counselor just for men’s basketball (and) a learning specialist that works with them on time management,” he said.
Even though the university has graduated many of its athletes, there is always room for improvement, Goff said.
“As always we strive to get better, so as the years go by we are going to look to increase that number.”