By one measure, Terps have lowest graduation rate in NCAA field

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Maryland had the lowest graduation rate -- 8 percent -- among the 65 teams in this year's NCAA basketball tournament, according to an annual study released Monday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. The Institute focused its study on an increase in the disparity in graduation rates between white and black players on tournament teams, but the rankings brought unflattering attention on Maryland. California was the next-lowest in the field, ranking 64th at 20 percent.

Terrapins Coach Gary Williams disputed the significance of the figures, which assessed the classes that entered college from 1999 to 2002 and their success in graduating within six years. The statistics cited in the study were the NCAA's Graduation Success Rates, which -- unlike federal graduation rates -- do not penalize schools for transfer students that leave in good academic standing.

"Obviously, those years we had players leave early and they're millionaires now, and they're coming back to get their degrees, just like other guys have come back and gotten their degrees," Williams said Monday in a phone interview. "Plus we've graduated, let's see, I think it's 10 out of 12 and most recently of our seniors, we'll graduate all four of our seniors this year. Our academic support system has completely changed since 1999-2003. That is ancient facts, and you know it.

"See, you'll never put in there that our four seniors will graduate this year or that we've graduated 10 out of our last 12 players. That's my quote. And our academic support system is completely different than it was '99 to 2003. You're talking about eight years ago, seven years ago where things were different.

"Plus, we had teams in 2001 and 2002 that won national championships. Terrence Morris left early as a first-round draft choice. . . . Steve Blake, you know what he's doing. He's playing for a lot of money. Juan Dixon has made a lot of money during his career, and they both hopefully will come back and get their degrees. Chris Wilcox is a lottery pick, left after his sophomore year. Drew Nicholas did not graduate, but he's had a very successful year, still playing and making a lot of money."

Among the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, Duke possessed a 92 percent graduation success rate, followed by Kansas (73 percent), Syracuse (55 percent) and Kentucky (31 percent). Among tournament schools around the area, Georgetown recorded an 82 percent graduation rate, Morgan State was at 42 percent, Old Dominion 53 percent, and Richmond's was 85 percent.

"This is wrong, to say that these people aren't successful," Williams said. "Do you know Barry Gossett never graduated from the University of Maryland? He never graduated, but nobody ever criticizes Barry Gossett because he gives $12 million or whatever for the football team house. Barry's a good guy. He's done a lot of great things for the University of Maryland. Dan Snyder dropped out of Maryland after his freshman year. It's just the way it works. Bill Gates never graduated from Harvard.

"To say people aren't successful and to imply that we don't care about academics with our players is completely wrong. Once again, we've graduated 10 of our last 12, we have four seniors this year, and they will graduate. I will put that graduation rate for the last five years up against anyone in the country."

-- Steve Yanda

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