Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Clemson Tigers Winning on and off the Field

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Clemson Tigers Winning on and off the Field

Article excerpt

The Clemson University Tigers have more than just a stellar season to celebrate. With a graduation rate of 84 percent (91 percent for all student-athletes), and an Academic Performance Rate (APR) that consistently ranks in the top 10 percent of all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs, Clemson's football team is as much a model of success in the classroom as it has been on the field for the 2015-16 season.

Athletic and academic reform reached a fever pitch with the passage of the 1990 Student Right to-Know Act, which requires institutions to track the graduation and completion rates of all students by gender and race--especially student-athletes--and make said information available to the families of prospective recruits. Since then, colleges have come under even more scrutiny about the academic performance of their student-athletes.

That legislation brought to a national stage the urgency to clean up the academic performance of student-athletes participating in collegiate sports. The explosion of large numbers of sports networks and sports-related media such as ESPN, FOX Sports and countless sports talk radio programs only served to intensify that scrutiny.

Among schools that were most suspected of abuse were large public universities that populated their two revenue-producing sports, football and basketball, with highly talented, but academically challenged, athletes. Most of these athletes were African-American, adding another dimension of racial exploitation to the puzzle. The cynicism about the entire system became fodder for innumerable articles, documentaries and investigations.

But at Clemson, the impetus is as much on winning in the classroom as it is winning on the field. According to Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Joe Galbraith, the program boasts its highest graduation rate since the data was first released in 1998 --84 percent, which is fourth among all Power 5 public institutions (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12).

"At every level, the importance is on getting a degree, on being a part of campus, on understanding you are here as a student, as well as an athlete, and that's a culture that's really important to head coach Dabo Swinney and the entire athletics staff," said Galbraith. "He stresses that daily. …

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