A Matter Of No Degrees

By Norman Chad
Monday, October 15, 2007

To: The University of Maryland

From: Couch Slouch, Class of '81

Re: Graduation rates

I didn't want to write you all again -- I mean, just last month I politely requested that my alma mater eliminate Division I sports -- but several people e-mailed me some rather startling numbers about our hoops-playing, class-dodging student-athletes.

No Maryland men's basketball player who enrolled between 1997 and 2000 graduated within six years. This is commonly called a "zero percent graduation rate," and it ranked us last among the nation's 321 Division I programs -- in other words, we finished 321st out of 321 schools.

Geez, what happened to the academic legacy once created by Lefty Driesell?

Only one other men's basketball program in the ACC -- Clemson, 31 percent -- had a graduation rate below 40 percent. We can't do better than Clemson? Clemson? That's a Stuckey's with a student union.

The NCAA uses a formula called the "Graduation Success Rate" -- actually, in College Park, we call it the "Graduation Failure Rate" -- and this indicates that, uh, absolutely nobody on the basketball team gets out of Maryland alive with a degree.

Well, at least we're not cheating on exams!

(Column Intermission I: Battling a bad ankle on a muddy field 2,400 miles away from home, Player of Destiny Colt Brennan completed 44 of 75 passes for 545 yards to rally Hawaii from a 35-21 fourth-quarter deficit to a 42-35 overtime victory over San Jose State. Overcome by emotion watching it on ESPN, I wept at game's end.)

I repeat: We're talking a "zero percent graduation rate."

By the way, Maryland plays its games at Comcast Center; coincidentally, between 1997 and 2000, Comcast had a "zero percent response rate" to its customer's cable problems.

I understand that Coach Gary Williams is simply recruiting basketball players to win games. He has shown no intent in recruiting students who also play basketball well. But somewhere along the line, can't he find just one 6-foot-3 fella who will sit at the end of the bench with a strong interest in, say, metallurgical sciences?

He did not recruit a single player between 1997 and 2000 -- and that includes all the starters and top reserves on the 2002 national championship team -- who graduated at College Park within six years. None.

"I've graduated 42 players in 18 years," Williams said.

Wow, 42 in 18 years? Heck, MIT's rowing team graduates 42 people every two weeks.

(Column Intermission II: I'm sure some of you skipped the earlier column intermission once you saw Colt Brennan's name. My friends, he completed 44 of 75 passes for 545 yards in the rain, on the road. I know he's a senior, but if he's majoring in something, anything, I might see if we can skirt NCAA regulations and bring him to College Park in 2008.)

A single woman of 38 is more likely to find a husband at a Daughters of the American Revolution rally than a Maryland basketball player is to graduate within six years.

Williams argues that while none of the top eight players on his '02 title team graduated within six years, all of them went on to professional basketball careers. And it should be noted that forward Lonny Baxter did get jailed on a weapons charge within six years of enrolling at the university.

Now, if you ask most Terp alums if they would trade the 2002 national title for a 33 percent graduation rate or a better English Lit department, they'd likely choose the championship. Then again, that doesn't surprise me -- after all, they went to Maryland, so how smart could they be?

P.S. In defending a budget request to the state legislature in the early 1950s, University of Oklahoma president George L. Cross famously said, "We want to build a university the football team can be proud of." Which reminds me -- anytime I'm on campus, I never can find a parking spot; can't we at least build a parking facility the football team can be proud of?

Ask The Slouch

Q. Several years ago I was watching a football game on which I had bet a substantial amount of money and Joe Montana was standing on the sidelines in a business suit. My then-wife asked me, "What is he doing there?" Whereupon, I yelled, "How the hell should I know?" Was I wrong? (Harold Snyder; Latham, N.Y.)

A. I believe you've answered your own question.

Q. I heard you ranting on the radio the other day -- why do you so hate "the great unwashed"? (Ben Guterman; Maple Heights, Ohio)

A. They never wash.

Q. I came across a new show on TBS called "NLCS." Any idea who's in it? (William Murray; Chicago)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. After Rebekkah Brunson of the WNBA Sacramento Monarchs was arrested on DUI charges, she apologized to her fans. Do you think she did this individually? (Joe McCann; Pittsburgh)

A. Pay this fella on the sly, Shirley -- don't want to get WNBA types stirred up.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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