Report card on balancing student, athlete

Oct. 25, 2013 @ 04:14 PM

When we write about our local college athletics in this spot, it generally signals the start of the season or tournament success. But today we want to focus on our athletes’ pursuits off the court, specifically at UNC and Duke.
Both universities have traditionally done an outstanding job of ensuring athletes are equipped for what comes after their final game by encouraging them to graduate.
The latest numbers from the NCAA, which has tracked what it terms the Graduation Success Rate beginning with student-athletes who entered college in 1995, overall has seen graduation rates rise eight percentage points since that time.
The new information comes from data pulled from student-athletes entering college in 2006. Duke posted an eye-popping 99 percent graduation rate for its athletes – the second highest in the country. UNC came in at 86 percent, which is five percentage points above the national average.
The NCAA reports that men’s basketball and football traditionally earn the lowest graduation rates. Duke upended that statistically, with its men’s basketball team earning a perfect score on the GSR. Its football team posted a 92 percent graduation rate.
Down U.S. 15-501, the UNC men’s basketball team came away with a 90 percent success rate. Its football team did not fare as well, though, and was one of the areas that raised some concerns.
The football team posted a mere 65 percent success rate on graduation, below the national average of 71 percent for football players. The second eyebrow-raising statistic was for the women’s soccer team, which posted a perfect score on graduation rates in 2000, only to see a downward trajectory since. The soccer team had a Graduation Success Rate of 67 percent with the most recent data. 
N.C. Central University also has significant ground to make up. After a five-year reclassification process that culminated in 2011 to move to Division I, NCCU now has GSR data available. The most recent data available show the university with an overall graduation rate for student athletes of 57 percent. The football and men’s basketball team lag that overall percentage, though, with scores of 47 percent 46 percent, respectively. Under the guidance of the new chancellor, we hope to see significant strides in coming years.
It’s easy with statistics to lose sight of the people they represent. “What I try to concentrate on when I look at these results is not the numbers but the human lives that have been impacted, the numbers of students who graduate from college now who, 10 or 12 years ago, because we didn’t have these policies in place, wouldn’t have graduated,” said University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Academic Performance.
We have decried in this space in the past that many universities place a far greater emphasis on the athlete side of the student-athlete equation. It’s gratifying to see that, overall, student-athletes locally are excelling at being both.