Student-athletes who entered Division I colleges in fall 1987 graduated at about the same rate as other students, according to a study released yesterday by the NCAA.
However, the graduation rates at Maryland's three historically black institutions -- Morgan State, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Coppin State -- were sharply lower than those of the other Division I schools in the state and also were below the national average.
In fact, Coppin State, which graduated only eight of the 32 athletes (25 percent) it offered scholarships to, was the eighth-lowest among all Division I schools.
Calvin W. Burnett, Coppin's president, could not be reached for comment last night.
Overall, the NCAA's study of nearly 300 Division I schools found that 57 percent of student-athletes who received athletic scholarships graduated during the six-year study period, compared to a 56 percent rate for the general student body.
Mount St. Mary's topped the state's nine Division I schools, graduating 85 percent of its scholarship athletes, while Loyola graduated 78 percent, UMBC 72 percent and Towson State 60 percent.
Seventy-three percent of Naval Academy entrants during that period graduated, but that is not applicable to the NCAA survey, as the service academies do not offer athletic scholarships.
Morgan State graduated 40 percent of its student-athletes, while UMES graduated 33 percent.
The University of Maryland, whose athletes graduated at a 57 percent rate -- equal to the national average -- graduated only 25 percent of the football players and none of the men's basketball players who entered the school in 1987. Fifty percent of its women's basketball players earned degrees.
In men's basketball, only Mount St. Mary's, among the state's Division I schools, graduated all of its scholarship players who entered school that year, while Loyola's men's players graduated at a 60 percent rate.
Coppin and UMBC each graduated half their players, while 40 percent of Morgan's basketball players graduated and 33 percent graduated from Towson State.
"That was really my first recruiting class," Coppin basketball coach Fang Mitchell said. "It was just a situation where I was establishing myself. . . . The numbers are going to get better. In fact, I know they are getting better."
Nationally, female athletes graduated at higher levels than their male counterparts, by a 67-53 percent margin, and white female athletes graduated at a higher level than any other group.
The survey starting point of 1987 was the second year in which entrance standards mandated by Proposition 48 -- which requires incoming athletes to have at least a 700 score on the Scholastic Assessment Test, as well as a 2.0 grade-point average against a core of 11 classes -- went into effect.
The 57 percent overall rate matched the mark from 1986 and both figures were 5 percent higher than in 1985, the last non-Prop 48 year.
The findings appeared to bolster the argument of the NCAA Presidents Commission, which has lobbied successfully for even tighter entrance requirements, which will take effect next August.
"I am more confident now that the significant increase in freshman graduation rates was due to the imposition of Proposition 48," said Jerry L. Kingston, chairman of the NCAA's Academic Requirements Committee and the faculty athletics representative at Arizona State.
Black male and female athletes, whom black coaches argued would be adversely affected by tighter requirements, graduated at a higher rate than the overall black student population in 1986 and 1987.
In addition, black football and basketball players of both genders showed significant increases from the year before Prop 48 took hold.
However, there were about 600 fewer black athletes on campuses in 1986-87 than in 1984-85. Kingston said the percentage of black athletes should return to pre-Prop 48 levels with the 1988 class.
The NCAA will introduce Proposal 16 next August, which will institute a sliding test score/GPA scale for incoming athletes.
Marist and Providence were the only two NCAA schools to graduate all of their 1987 student-athletes, though Holy Cross, Georgetown, La Salle, Manhattan, Boston College, Colgate, Lehigh and Xavier also graduated more than 90 percent of their entrants.