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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Sports school UA grad rates


Despite a reputation for being last in the Pacific 10 Conference, UA athletes have a greater graduation rate than the rest of campus, according to a Daily Wildcat review of statistics.

The UA’s 2010 six-year graduation rate is 60 percent, 2 percentage points higher than 2009, according to reports from the Office of Institutional Research and Planning Support. However, Arizona Athletics graduated 65 percent of its students, according to the latest NCAA reports. In the last six years, the athletics’ graduation rate has not dropped below 60 percent, while the UA’s graduation rate is at an all-time high, looking back to 1991.

Five UA teams graduated at least 90 percent of their players last year: women’s golf, women’s tennis, gymnastics, women’s swim and soccer.

Three out of 16 teams fall below the UA average: men’s tennis, football, baseball and men’s basketball.

Women’s golf is the only sport to not drop below an 86 percent graduation rate since 2004 and has had two consecutive years of 100 percent graduation.

“”I just think that in the last 10 years we’ve had a lot of girls turn pro early, and with that we’ve looked at more recruits that will stay for four years and who think education is just as important as their future golf career,”” said Laura Ianello, UA head women’s golf coach.

Women’s tennis rose from only graduating half its players in 2005, to all of them last year.

“”I try and bring in the type of character that takes care of academics,”” said Vicky Maes, UA women’s tennis head coach. “”It’s not easy. We travel, we have a lot of foreign kids who struggle at language … College athletics is mostly about graduating student athletes. I went to school here and I look at that as a blessing, going somewhere, getting a scholarship, so you owe it to your school first and foremost to graduate.””

Maes requires a 3.0 GPA for her team and 5 a.m. workouts for athletes who cut class. If the problem persists, she requires full-team 5 a.m. workouts. Football has consistently been criticized for having the lowest graduation rate in the Pac-10. In fact, at 48 percent, the team is 12 percentage points below the UA average. However, it has been on the rise since 2005 when its graduation rate sank to 39 percent.

Baseball has been on a steady decline since 2004, when 54 percent of its players graduated. Most recently, that rate has fallen to 28 percent. The UA is also one of the three most represented schools by current professional baseball players.

“”Now I have 12 active players in the major league but that means that those guys don’t graduate,”” said UA baseball head coach Andy Lopez. “”Someone is complimenting me on that fact, that there’s only two other programs active in the major leagues, but on the same side someone is saying, ‘You don’t graduate your guys.'””

Lopez forfeited his draft chances and graduated from University of California, Los Angeles, before becoming a coach.

“”I wish they would all stay and get their degree as Coach Lopez did, but I understand that the world I’m in has young men getting drafted and they choose to pursue their career in professional baseball,”” Lopez said. “”In 2008 we had two first-round pitchers offered between $1.9 million and $1.5 million, and you’re asking them to stay and go to school for less than full scholarships and forfeit a $1.5 million signing bonus. Realistically, that won’t happen.””

Basketball is consistently the team with the lowest graduation rate on campus. In 2004 and 2005, 42 percent of basketball players graduated, but that number has fallen, with the most significant drop in 2008 to 11 percent. That was also the year that former UA head coach Lute Olson left the program.

Sean Miller, UA men’s basketball head coach, came to the UA last year from Xavier University. The team’s graduation rates at Xavier have not dropped below 80 percent since 2004.

One of Miller’s goals for UA basketball is to increase graduation rates. After starting at the UA, men’s basketball’s graduation rate almost doubled.

Greg Byrne, UA’s athletics director, also came to the UA this year with a focus on academics.

In Byrne’s first address to the Faculty Senate, he stressed the importance of academics and graduation for athletes.

He presented the new classroom attendance policy that he implemented on campus this semester.

“”Athletes who have three unexcused absences would receive a written warning; more than three unexcused absences would result in loss of playing time,”” Byrne said.

The athletics department works with Commitment to an Athlete’s Total Success (C.A.T.S.) Academics to enforce this new policy.

“”I’m really encouraged and pleased with the support that Greg (Byrne) is giving, and the focus that he’s placing on academic achievement and accountability,”” said Mike Meade, director of C.A.T.S. Academics. “”But because it is new … it will definitely help to mention class attendance is really the first step in students improving in their performance.””

Lopez said the new policy just adds to baseball’s already strict policy.

“”I’ve had a policy that if they miss class, they don’t get on the field,”” he said.

Three athletes have enough unexcused absences to be subject to suspension from competition, and a few others are at the warning level.

“”We just got back our second round (of progress reports) and we have had some issues pop up,”” Meade said. “”It has happened a couple of times, but we haven’t been held out yet. One sport affected is not in season but it will affect them when it is in season.””

Lopez feels the policy is a good one for athletes, but that non-athletes aren’t perfect, either.

“”I don’t think there’s perfect attendance on campus. I don’t think everyone graduates when they show up here. The normal student misses classes and the normal student doesn’t graduate and I think the normal student might fail a class now and then. I know that that’s the norm,”” Lopez said. “”But student athletes are under the microscope and they have to understand that.””

If athletes aren’t graduating, it’s not because of a lack of resources available, professors say.

Pre-business is the most common major on campus for all student athletes.

“”I find them to be very good students, very focused, in part because they, as an athlete, especially the ones on scholarship, are the ones I track most closely in working with Mike (Meade),”” said Bill Neumann, a business professor who teaches MIS 111, a required course for pre-business students. “”That’s their part-time job, this is what’s paying for their education and many, many of the students recognize how important is it for academics to be front and center in terms of what they are doing.””

Family studies and human development is another common major for athletes and those professors feel that students are attentive and attend class.

“”They (C.A.T.S) are pretty helpful, they really keep on top of the students,”” said Allison Ewing, coordinator of Undergraduate Programs at the John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Ewing mentioned that one improvement athletes could make is speaking with their academic advisor and not just their C.A.T.S advisors.

“”One problem we sometimes run into is they are giving them academic advising advice that doesn’t necessarily match up with what we would say,”” Ewing added.

Neumann appreciates the C.A.T.S advisors because they have a person to contact if he sees a student struggling.

“”I basically treat athletes like every other student and by setting those standards, they do well,”” he added.

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