Friday, March 18, 2005

Inaccuracy alert -- NCAA statistics version

The University of Central Florida released the findings of a study of graduation rates for 64 of the 65 teams (Penn doesn't publish its grad rates) in this year's NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament. Based on the NCAA's graduation-rate criteria, you have probably heard that 43 of the 64 teams had graduation rates of less than 50%. Here is what the press ALWAYS fails to report: the NCAA's graduation rate criteria are deceptive. Why? Let the researchers themselves explain:

The Institute [for Diversity and Ethics in Sport] believes that the way graduation rates are currently compiled is unfair. Using the current methodology, a student-athlete who transfers in good standing and graduates at another institution counts as a non-graduate at the initial school. Also, the methodology does not count a junior college student who transfers to a four-year college and graduates, or a former student[-]athlete who returns and graduates six years after original enrollment. We support the NCAA’s current initiative to redefine how graduation rates are calculated.

And the researchers missed another fault: if a student transfers to another school and graduates on-time, the new school does not get credit for the graduate. Thus, if James Theus graduates from U. Detroit, he counts as an 0-for-1 at Syracuse (his initial enrollment school) and an 0-for-0 at Detroit. Similarly, Ryan Blackwell is a black mark for Illinois even though he succeeded at Syracuse.

That makes certain achievements reported in the study (link to table) even better: SU's 56% graduation rate for black players (and 53% overall), KU's 73% rate overall. As I said before, in the early 90s Boeheim reconfigured his emphasis to ensure that more of his kids would get their degrees, and that seems to have worked out.

Some schools, however, are irredeemible even if you change the calculation: Ga. Tech, Kentucky, LSU (0% overall), Pitt, UWM, Louisville, Louisiana-Lafayette, Minnesota (0% overall), New Mexico, Ok. State, Farleigh Dickinson, Oklahoma. That's 12 teams with graduation rates of 20% or below! Worse yet: Nevada, Cincy, Kentucky, Pacific, Utah, and UWM did not graduate any black players; UConn, Arizona, UCLA, Texas Tech (pre-Knight), UTEP, Iowa State, and EKU graduated more than 20% overall, but less than 20% of their black players.

Keep all this in mind when you hear about the poor graduation rates at the various schools.

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