The University of Maryland ranks 10th of 12 schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference in graduation success rates for male student-athletes, according to statistics released yesterday by the NCAA.
Two-thirds of those athletes who began college between 1996 and 1999 eventually graduated from Maryland within six years. The Terrapins' rate - 67 percent - falls well below the ACC average of 76 percent and pales in comparison with the numbers put up by conference leaders Boston College (96 percent) and Duke (95).
Only Georgia Tech and North Carolina State trailed Maryland in the ACC rankings for men.
Those numbers should improve, said Anton Goff, associate athletics director for academic support and career development at Maryland.
"Since then, we've made some changes in our athletic department," Goff said. "I'm looking at our student-athletes we recruit, the services we provide in-house, putting more money, more staff and more resources into trying to improve those numbers.
"We have more staff now than we had back in 1996. We were in Cole Field House as opposed to the Comcast Center. We didn't have the Gossett Academic Support Unit, so our facilities have been upgraded since then.
"Those types of things should make a difference, if we look 10 years from now at our numbers," Goff said.
An ethnic breakdown shows that, during that same time span, Maryland ranked 11th in the ACC in its graduation rate for black male scholarship athletes (49 percent) and 10th for white athletes (74 percent).
For all athletes, Maryland's graduation rate for that period was 76 percent, buoyed by a strong showing by women, 87 percent of whom earned their degrees.
"Our goal is to consistently have graduation rates at 70 percent or higher for our student-athletes," athletic director Debbie Yow said. "Congratulations are in order."
Announcing the figures yesterday, NCAA president Myles Brand drove home the point that nationally, student-athletes at Division I colleges are graduating at a higher rate than the student body in general.
"It's a severe frustration of mine, this constant din that athletes perform poorly [in the classroom]," Brand said in a conference call. "It's a popularly peddled myth ... and well off the mark."
According to NCAA data (using federal guidelines, which don't include transfer students), 63 percent of Division I athletes who began college in 1999 received their degrees within six years, compared with 61 percent of all college students. Again, it was women who drove up those numbers: Nationally, 71 percent of female student-athletes graduated, compared with 56 percent of men.
"I'm not surprised [by the gender differences]," said Robert Caret, president of Towson University. His school had a 76 percent graduation rate for women athletes as opposed to 57 percent for the student body.
"Female athletes tend to be the more serious students, while males tend to need more academic support," Caret said.
Athletes, different from the rest of the student body, have a built-in infrastructure designed to aid their academic progress. Advisers. Tutors. Study halls. Steppingstones to graduation.
Regular students can partake of these academic perks, but there's a difference, said Art Johnson, provost at UMBC:
"Other students go [for support] self-initiated, whereas for the student-athlete, it's mandated."
Sun reporter Heather A. Dinich contributed to this article.