College Athletes Outperform Other Students

By reports, and wire | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 19, 2009 | Go to article overview

College Athletes Outperform Other Students


reports, and wire, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


College athletes still are setting records and dispelling myths - - in the classroom.

Just like the late NCAA president Myles Brand believed they could.

The NCAA's latest graduation numbers show nearly four out of five student-athletes earn their diplomas on time -- an all-time high -- and federal statistics show athletes still are more likely to graduate on time than other students.

"The misconception is that NCAA student-athletes are not good students," interim NCAA president Jim Isch said via conference call Wednesday. "The truth, as Myles reminded people, is that they could perform in the classroom, and they outperformed the general student body in almost every measure."

NCAA statistics show 79 percent of all freshmen entering school in 2002-03 graduated within six years, matching last year's record high. The four-class average, for students entering college between the fall of 1999 and the fall of 2002, also was 79 percent -- a 1 percentage point increase over last year's record.

The federal numbers are lower -- 64 percent for athletes -- but still 2 percentage points higher than the general student body that doesn't have access to all the assistance provided to student- athletes.

At Pitt, the graduation rate for football players rose one point, to 68 percent, since last year's study. For Pitt men's basketball players, the increase was six points, to 75 percent -- well above the national average of 64 percent.

"We are proud that our rising performances on the field have mirrored our rising achievements in the classroom," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. "Pitt student-athletes are graduating at an all-time high, and that is a major point of pride for the University of Pittsburgh. A Pitt diploma has never had more value, and it remains our ultimate priority to see that each of our student- athletes reach that goal."

Among the area's five Division I schools, Robert Morris had eight sports with 100 percent graduation rates, followed by Penn State (7), Duquesne (5), Pitt (5) and West Virginia (3).

Penn State's football graduation numbers jumped seven points, to 85 percent. The men's and women's basketball programs saw decreases.

West Virginia's football figure dropped two points, to 61 percent, and the men's basketball program had just a 44 percent graduation rate, which was an increase of 3 percent from last year's study.

The men's and women's basketball programs at Duquesne remained unchanged, at 60 percent, for men and 100 percent for women.

Federal statistics don't include the performance of transfer students. So, if an athlete enrolls at one school, then transfers to another, neither school receives credit if the athlete graduates.

NCAA officials believe the improving numbers can be attributed to stronger eligibility standards for incoming freshmen and a greater emphasis on academics during Brand's tenure as president.

"I think everyone understands how much this has changed the culture on campus, and I expect that will continue to be the case in the future," said Walter Harrison, chairman of the committee on academic performance. …

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