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Graduation rate: UM football 79%

Reflective of a trend of increased academic success of University of Maryland athletes, the football team's most recent graduation rates were well above the national average and in the upper echelon of the Atlantic Coast Conference, according to data released yesterday by the NCAA.

The graduation rate of scholarship football players who entered Maryland in the fall of 1998 was 79 percent, compared with 54 percent nationally. Boston College, Miami and Wake Forest were the only ACC schools that had football programs with higher graduation rates.

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Overall, a school-record 70 percent of Maryland's scholarship student-athletes graduated, compared with a national rate of 62 percent. Maryland's graduation rate has now been over 60 percent in nine of the past 11 years -- a steady improvement from 54 percent in 1993.

"We always shoot to be as high as possible, but we definitely want to be as close to or above what everybody else is doing," said assistant athletic director of academic support and career development Anton Goff, referring to Maryland's general student body graduation rate of 73 percent.

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There are now three methods of calculating graduation rates:

The one released yesterday is a snapshot of the student-athletes who enrolled in school six years ago -- the allotted time the NCAA allows players to graduate. In this case, it was the 1998-99 school year.

A more inclusive yet dated method shows the graduation rates for four classes, the most recent beginning with 1995-96.

The graduation success rate is the newest method, and those numbers were released by the NCAA last month. It has been received favorably by many coaches because it does not penalize programs for students who transfer to another school, but rewards them for students who transfer in and graduate.

The zero percent graduation rate for the Maryland men's basketball team is based on the paths of the two freshmen on the 1998-99 roster. Danny Miller transferred to Notre Dame, and Lonny Baxter didn't graduate within the six-year period (school officials wouldn't confirm if he has since graduated). Juan Dixon did not count toward the 1998-99 graduation rate because he joined the team the season before but redshirted.

Half the ACC basketball teams have a graduation rate of zero percent based on the data of less than five players.

"Because the number is so small, if somebody doesn't graduate it affects your entire graduation rate for that year," Goff said. "As far as basketball is concerned, we don't like to see it at zero, but as you can see, the trend across the country is that basketball rates are low. Everybody is dealing with the issue, 'How can we get graduation rates up for basketball?'"

The graduation rate for Maryland football has improved drastically since the last time such data was collected. The Terps graduated 62 percent of the football players who came to Maryland in the fall of 1997.

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In Ralph Friedgen's four years as coach of the Terps' football team, 78 of 89 (88 percent) seniors have graduated. Five Terps who played last season have already graduated.

"That's what we're here for," Friedgen said. "That's part of our job. It's tough to judge a coach on one year. You have to judge him over four or five years -- sometimes you have a recruiting class like my first year. There were a lot of kids who dropped out for a lot of different reasons.

"It's becoming more and more apparent you want to recruit kids who are serious about getting an education," he said. "Sometimes you don't know. You're allowed six contacts, that's it. Sometimes they fool you."

Coppin State and UMBC joined the Terps with a zero percent rate for men's basketball, but none of the local men's basketball programs did particularly well.

Loyola, UMES, Morgan State and Mount St. Mary's all graduated 50 percent of their 1998-99 entering classes to lead the way, and Towson was at 25 percent.

Towson's football team had the best rate of the state's revenue programs, with 80 percent of the athletes getting degrees from the school, and Morgan State came in at 36 percent.

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Graduation rates for Navy don't appear in the federal rates because all students at the academy attend free of charge.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

GRADUATION RATES

Football and men's basketball graduation rates for Atlantic Coast Conference and state Division I schools among student-athletes who entered college in the fall of 1998. Student-athletes who left school before completing their eligibility - even if they departed in good academic standing or received degrees elsewhere - counted against the original institution's graduation rate.

ACC

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FOOTBALL %

Boston College 100

Miami 87

Wake Forest 86

Maryland 79

North Carolina 75

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Duke 68

Virginia Tech 67

Clemson 48

Virginia 43

Florida State 41

N.C. State 38

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Georgia Tech 20

Men's basketball %

Miami 100

North Carolina 100

Wake Forest 100

Florida State 50

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Virginia 50

Boston College 33*

Clemson 0

Duke 0

Georgia Tech 0

Maryland 0

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N.C. State 0

Virginia Tech 0

*-Boston College's men's basketball graduation rate reflected between six and 10 student-athletes. For all other men's basketball programs, data was collected for between one and five student-athletes.

STATE DIVISION I

Football %

Towson 80

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Maryland 79

Morgan State 36

Men's basketball %

Loyola 50

UMES 50

Morgan State 50

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Mount St. Mary's 50

Towson 25

Coppin State 0

UMBC 0

Maryland 0

Note -- Because all students at Navy attend free of charge, graduation rates for the Midshipmen don't appear in the federal rates.

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[ Source: NCAA]


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