Graduation numbers are as important to Division I college sports and athletes these days as hand-eye coordination and a healthy diet.
“I think a culture change has happened,” said John P. Bruno, the faculty athletics representative at Ohio State. “Kids have started to understand that the game ends. You better have a degree if you want to move forward with your life and be able to help your family.”
The latest Graduation Success Rate data, announced yesterday by the NCAA, spoke to Bruno’s point about the steady improvement of Ohio State athletes in the classroom in recent years.
Ohio State athletes have a four-year class average (2003-06) of 89 percent in the GSR. That is 4 percentage points better than the average a year ago and 8 points better than the NCAA’s overall Division I average this year.
“If you keep going up each year, it’s either because you dropped a really bad year or your numbers kept inching up,” Bruno said. “We’ve kept adding. It’s been a steady rise. The students have embraced it.”
The GSR can add transfer students, midyear enrollees and certain nonscholarship students to the freshman class. A student-athlete who leaves college in good academic standing is removed from the group.
Football, the centerpiece of Ohio State sports, had a GSR of 75 percent this year. Although that is well below the four-year overall OSU average, it is up 1 percentage point from a year ago and 12 points from three years ago.
In the four-year grouping, 25 Ohio State programs are ahead of or equal to the national average for their sports. Thirteen of those had 100 percent GSR: men’s fencing, gymnastics, tennis, volleyball and pistol; women’s basketball, fencing, golf, lacrosse, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.
The Academic Progress Rate and the GSR are tied to eligibility and to scholarships. Poor scores not only hurt the individual, they hurt the team.
“People know that we’re keeping score,” Bruno said. “Now that score is being kept, people are responding to it accordingly. Athletes and coaches are very good at keeping score.”