Football and grades don't always mix
The NCAA released its Graduation Success Rate report Wednesday, and the results were not kind to state of Michigan schools.
Michigan had the highest score of all football programs in the state, but graduated just 71 percent of its players, tied for 78th out of 229 Division I and I-AA teams. Central Michigan and Western Michigan both had GSRs of 70 percent, while Eastern Michigan (55 percent) and Michigan State (45 percent) were among the bottom 80 schools nationally.
Boston College (96 percent) and Notre Dame (95 percent) had the best GSRs of all major programs. Northwestern (91 percent) and Penn State (80 percent) led the Big Ten.
The rate measures the percentage of graduates in a college sports program over a four-year period, with athletes given six years to graduate. The report includes the graduating classes of 1996-97 through 1999-2000. For MSU, that's the Nick Saban years - and it helps explain why school officials like president Lou Anna Simon and athletics director Ron Mason have been so quick to champion current coach John L. Smith's off-field successes.
Under Smith, the Spartans have received adequate Academic Progress Rate scores. The APR is a more current measure of a team's academic success, and was designed to gauge whether athletes stay enrolled and make progress towards their degree. Programs with poor APRs - scores below 925 - are at risk for scholarship reductions.
The Spartan football program scored a 907 in the latest APR report issued last February (for the 2003-04 and 04-05 academic years). That score is high enough to avoid sanctions when the numbers are adjusted for squad size. It's still well below the Division I football average of 930, but considering how bad the numbers were under Saban (and presumably Bobby Williams) it's a step in the right direction.
Michigan, by the way, registered a 952 APR, which places it in the 70-80th percentile of all football programs. Western Michigan (878) had one of the worst scores in Division I, Central Michigan (907) was on par with MSU, and Eastern Michigan (902) was in danger of sanctions.