Graduation Rates Of NCAA Tournament Teams Shine Light On Program Priorities

March 29th, 2017 | by Javier Morales
Graduation Rates Of NCAA Tournament Teams Shine Light On Program Priorities

Graduation Rates

The Final Four in Phoenix this week will not include Dayton, Bucknell, Northwestern and Kent State or Notre Dame, but in the game of life, those schools are winning more than most. 

Those programs graduate the most players, according to data from the NCAA. Graduation Rates cover the last four graduating classes using federally mandated formula. Bucknell graduates 92 percent of its players, followed by Dayton (91), Northwestern (86), Kent State (83) and Notre Dame (83).

You know the Elite Eight? What about the Terrific Ten? Ten of the teams in March Madness, including Bucknell and Dayton, graduate more players percentage wise than their peers (the general student body). Bucknell graduates 92 percent of its players and Dayton’s rate is at 91 percent. The graduation rate of their peers is 90 and 77 percent, respectively.

Because of this, a separate national coach of the year honor should be awarded to Archie Miller, Dayton’s former head coach who recently took the same job at Indiana. Nathan Davis, who completed his second season at Bucknell, should also be recognized for that honor.

On the other end of the spectrum, Iowa State’s graduation rate for its players is zero while the general student body is at 70 percent. Arkansas and Oklahoma State’s players each are at 14 percent while their peers are at 61 percent. Nevada has a graduation rate of 17 percent for its players while the student body is at 55.

The two Los Angeles programs – UCLA and USC – can perhaps blame the Hollywood lifestyle for their graduation woes?

UCLA’s players graduate at a rate of 20 percent while the student body is at 91. The Trojans graduate at a woeful rate of 13 percent while their peers are at 91.

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Minutes after the Bruins’ loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16, freshman sensational guard Lonzo Ball did not hesitate to declare he is headed to the NBA. He won’t graduate – at least as a player with UCLA – but he will earn millions as a professional basketball player. The argument can be made that he will become a success at his craft similar to a medical student becoming an accomplished doctor.

The fact remains that an education, what a university stands for in the first place, is deemed secondary to a basketball career without guarantee for success at the next level. Students do not receive a bachelor’s degree in basketball.

What happens at institutions such as Iowa State, USC, UCLA, Arkansas and Oklahoma State, etc., should be scrutinized. These are not the only programs that have a significant discrepancy between their players graduating compared to the rate of their peers, but they are an example of the mindset that playing basketball comes first with studying on the backburner.

What makes players at these schools any different than those who attend Dayton, Bucknell, Kent State and Notre Dame?

Certainly, the curriculum at Bucknell cannot be any easier than the one at Iowa State to achieve academic success.

It comes down to recruiting and placing a genuine, stern emphasis for the student-athletes – not only “athletes” – to achieve what they go to college for in the first place. That is to earn a degree.

Can you imagine if the NCAA tournament selection committee altered its seeding with graduation rates as one of the factors? Iowa State was a fifth seed while Bucknell was a 13th seed. In basketball terms, this makes sense. In the game of life, Bucknell is a No. 1 seed and the Cyclones are a No. 16, a real mismatch.

About Javier Morales
Javier Morales has worked as a sports journalist for more than 25 years. He reported for The Arizona Daily Star for 13 years. He was the Star’s beat reporter for the Arizona men’s basketball program when the Wildcats won the national title in 1996-97. A 2010 Arizona Press Club award winner, Morales operates the blog site

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