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Athletes Are Getting the Real Win: Diplomas

Seven BU squads report 100 percent graduation rate


Photos by BU Athletics

Boston University’s athletic teams are scoring big where it matters most — off the field, in classrooms, earning diplomas.

According to the NCAA, which tracks graduation data of students on athletic scholarships at Division I institutions, BU’s Athletics Department earned an overall graduation success rate (GSR) of 94 percent for students intending to graduate in the classes 2003 to 2006. Women’s basketball, golf, rowing, soccer, tennis, and men’s and women’s swimming put up perfect scores.

Nationwide, the graduation rate for Division I students receiving athletic aid during the same period was 79 percent, although the national figure factors in sports such as fencing, gymnastics, bowling, skiing, and football, which BU doesn’t offer.

“It’s another indication of the quality of student-athlete we have here at BU,” says Michael Lynch, assistant vice president and director of athletics. “They’re focused on achievement in school as much as they are on the playing field, on the ice, on the tennis court. Our student-athletes graduated 4 percentage points better than the University’s general student population , which I’m really proud of.”

Terrier men’s basketball and crew, men’s and women’s cross country and track and field, women’s lacrosse, softball, and wrestling achieved GSR scores of at least 90 percent. Of BU’s 23 varsity sports, rates for 17 were reported, because cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field are compiled as one sport per gender. Women’s ice hockey did not become a varsity program until the 2005-2006 season.

Three BU teams earned GSR scores in the 80 percent range, including men’s ice hockey, at 82 percent, which Lynch says mirrors the national average. He points out that a few Terrier icemen leave school periodically to play professionally, therefore fewer graduate. Of 18 players on athletic scholarships during the period analyzed, two left for the NHL and one graduated beyond the study’s six-year time limitation.

“One good thing about ice hockey, and all our sports, is that when players leave without attaining their degree, we will encourage and help them come back,” Lynch says. “Throughout their career, Coach Jack Parker will keep in touch with them about completing their degrees. We’ve had guys come back after 10 or 11 years of pro hockey.”

Lynch is especially proud of men’s basketball. Nationally, graduation rates among men’s hoops and football players have been low, although those figures are slowly rising as a result of reforms. For all collegiate b-ball players who entered in 2002, 66 percent earned diplomas. For the entering class in 1995, the first year of data collection, that figure was 56 percent.

“While we don’t have football, our men’s basketball numbers have been fantastic, as well as our women’s basketball,” Lynch says. “A couple of years ago, we had perfect scores in men’s and women’s basketball, and the last couple of years they were in the high 90s.”

The NCAA’s GSR was developed to provide more accurate graduation data than that provided by the methodology mandated by the federal Student Right-to-Know Act, which calculates based solely on freshman matriculation, not including students who transfer in, not excluding those who transfer out.

The federal rate offers the only method to compare student-athletes with the general student body. According to those figures, 80 percent of the general Boston University student body matriculating between 1999 and 2002 graduated within a six-year time span, whereas 84 percent of all Terrier student-athletes earned degrees during the same period.

“We have a great support system in place,” Lynch says. “Our student-athlete support services group is top-notch, dedicated to making sure our athletes do what they need to do in the classroom. Our coaches follow up on student-athlete progress in the classroom and the community as well. How you do on the field is important, and we want to win, but we want to do it in a way that allows our students-athletes to achieve what they can in the classroom, too.”

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu.


One Comment on Athletes Are Getting the Real Win: Diplomas

  • Anonymous on 12.07.2009 at 5:32 am

    Isn't that the point of college

    Athletes are getting the real win…sure are, since they don’t have to pay for most of their tuition, get priority choices for classes, and oh wow they’re even graduating. I thought that’s why one goes to college in the first place? Maybe I’m mistaken. Glad the athletes are finally on board!

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