Terps men's basketball grad rate last in ACC

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK - The University of Maryland continues to rank at the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference in graduating its men's basketball players, according to the latest NCAA statistics.

Maryland's other teams, including football, fared much better.

The figures, released yesterday, cover the four entering freshman classes from 1998-99 through 2001-02.

The Wake Forest and Florida State men's basketball teams posted perfect graduation success rates for the period, followed by Duke (89 percent) and North Carolina (86 percent). Maryland (10 percent) was at the bottom along with Clemson (29 percent) and North Carolina State (40 percent).

Maryland's men's basketball posted a zero in the statistics released a year ago, meaning that none of the memorable players on the Terps' 2002 national championship team graduated within six years of entering school. Maryland noted then that all 10 freshman and transfer basketball players measurable by the graduation success rate scores left school to pursue professional careers.

"We're making progress with men's basketball," said Kathleen Worthington, Maryland's senior associate athletic director.

Seniors James Gist, Bambale Osby and Jason McAlpin graduated in the spring. Yesterday's figures didn't reflect those graduations because they entered the program after the window examined by the report.

Worthington said the men's basketball staff has been working with the academic support staff to keep players on track. It takes approximately 120 credits to graduate, and Worthington said the goal is for players to need fewer than 12 credits by their last semester of athletic eligibility.

The graduation rate of Maryland's football program held steady at 68 percent in the latest figures. Last year's figures showed the team at 69 percent. It was 64 percent the year before that.

The rate should not be confused with the academic progress rate, or APR, a more current semester-by-semester snapshot of academic eligibility, graduation and retention. Schools can lose scholarships based on low APR scores.

In May, the NCAA penalized 123 colleges and universities for having athletic teams that fell short of academic guidelines. The Terrapins' men's basketball team was below the APR cutoff score but wasn't penalized because players who left without graduating had already exhausted their eligibility.

In yesterday's figures, Maryland had three teams (women's golf, gymnastics and women's soccer) that earned 100 percent graduation figures. The school said its overall graduation success score of 79 percent continued a four-year upward trend.

Loyola was the only state school that earned 100 percent figures for men's and women's basketball. Navy football's graduation rate was 95 percent; men's basketball was 97 percent and women's basketball was 100 percent.

Four of Towson's women's sports - basketball, field hockey, tennis and volleyball - had 100 percent scores during the period.

Nationally, the NCAA said Division I athletes are graduating at the highest rates ever. It said the average graduation success rate for the most recent four graduating classes of 78 percent is up 1 percentage point from last year. Students who transfer in are counted in the total.

"I think this news is good," Walter Harrison, chairman of the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance, said during a conference call yesterday. "Obviously, we have problems in some teams and we have problems in some sports."

Men's basketball continues to pose issues. The graduation rate for entering classes of 1998 to 2001 was 62 percent. The NCAA said the rate for African-American men's basketball players was 58 percent - up 12 percentage points over the previous seven years.

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