A closer look at USC’s student-athlete graduation rates

first_imgThe perpetual stereotype of the dumb jock is far from dead in today’s society, and at college campuses, idolized student-athletes are walking to the same classes that every other student is — or are they?At USC, student-athletes account for roughly 1.2 percent of the total student population. The USC Athletics website lists 516 student-athletes accounting for the 43,000 total students at the University.With the added burden of competing at a Division I school on teams that are regularly competing for national championships, it would be easy for student-athletes to allow academics to fall by the wayside.Not the case at USCThe NCAA collects and reports data from colleges and universities regarding both their student graduation rates and student-athlete graduation rates. The rate is determined by calculating the proportion of first-year, full-time student-athletes who enter a school with institutional aid and graduate in six years. This is called the student-athlete graduation success rate.USC’s overall student-athlete GSR is 81. In comparison with the regular student body though, the numbers are a bit more grim. Ninety-one percent of the 2008-2009 freshmen class went on to graduate in four years. Only 70 percent of student-athletes from the same class graduated at the same time.This is partly due to the time commitments that athletes are dedicating themselves to on a daily basis that the regular student does not have. According to a study by the Pac-12 in April 2015, student-athletes self-reported spending 50 hours a week on athletics during the season. This is significantly more time than the 20 hours a week permitted by the NCAA.At the College Sport Research Institution at the University of South Carolina, Mark Nagel is the associate director of the program that recently researched graduation gaps of Division I basketball players.“The bottom line is, particularly in revenue sports, it’s putting a round peg in a square hole,” Nagel said. “Universities are set up with education as their goal. Football and basketball programs are not set up with education as their goal. As the money has become unbelievably larger, it has dominated what is important.”The GSR rate for USC’s men’s basketball teams is 82, tied for the fifth highest in the conference. The football team, however, which has the lowest GSR on campus at 58, is second to last in the Pac-12.Magdi El-Shahawy is USC’s associate athletic director in charge of Student-Athlete Academic Services. He declined to comment for this story. However, he did speak on the matter in an article on the USC Ripsit blog from November.“Our current football GSR is a victim of our on-field success back then,” El-Shahawy said. “Of the 71 players in the 2005 to 2008 cohort, 41 of them graduated in the six-year GSR window. Of those who didn’t, 22 competed in the NFL. Ten left USC within one semester of graduating and four came back to USC after the six-year window to get their degrees. Next year, when the 2005 figure will no longer be part of the calculation, our football GSR will rise significantly.”The Trojans’ second lowest sport in terms of GSR is track and field (73) something Nagel said isn’t that surprising despite the fact that it isn’t a revenue sport.“Track and field is one of the few non-revenue sports that attracts a disproportionate number of African American and minority athletes,” Nagel said. “African American and minority athletes are coming from schools that are not as strong. It looks a lot like a revenue sport having underprepared students coming into the system.”Of the African American track and field athletes who were freshmen in 2008-2009, only 63 percent graduated in four years and 75 percent in the GSR period of six years.Seven sports have a GSR of more than 90 percent including two that boast a 100 percent rate — women’s basketball and women’s golf. The other sports are women’s water polo (96), women’s soccer (95), women’s rowing (94), women’s volleyball (91) and baseball (91). Baseball is the only men’s sport above the 90 percent mark.What are students studying?On the USC Athletics website, an athlete’s major is often one of the listed facts in the personal section.Of the 516 student-athletes on the website, 89 did not have a major listed. An additional 99 student-athletes have their major listed as undecided or undeclared, leaving 328 listed majors.Thirty-seven percent of student-athletes with a listed major fall into two majors: communication (67 students) and business administration (53 students). Both majors require 48 units of coursework. The drop-off between business and the next most common major is significant — there are 22 student-athletes that are human biology majors.Above the restThe USC Ripsit blog, the athletic department’s blog, lists the average GPA of a student-athlete at 2.94 during the fall 2015 semester. According to the Panhellenic Council website, the average GPA for the USC student body is 3.21.“What is particularly impressive is that they are able to do well academically at a university where the academic profile of the student body continues to rise,” El-Shahawy said in the post. “That means our student-athletes are performing better and doing so against better competition.”USC’s blog post went on to note that the highest team GPA was the women’s soccer team with a cumulative GPA of 3.30. However, the women’s lacrosse team saw the most athletes make the Dean’s List with 15 members.“The fact that in most cases the female athletes are much closer to the performance of the female student body,” Nagel said. “If you are a female athlete, there isn’t as much of a pot of gold waiting for you. There is greater motivation for women athletes to keep education as a priority.”The pot of gold waits for NFL hopefuls, however. The football team recorded its highest in-season GPA ever of 2.66, according to the blog. Thirty-six members of the team recorded a 3.0 GPA and the blog post said the team had its “fewest-ever sub-2.0 performers.” A 2.0 is the lowest GPA a student can have and graduate.“If you ask any coach, they need to win, they need their athletes to perform,” Nagel said. “No one ever gets fired for bad graduation rates, they get fired for not winning. Losing equates to a lot less money.”last_img read more

Duquette promises Orioles will work “harder and smarter” to compete

first_imgDan Duquette did as well as you could reasonably expect in his introductory press conference after the public-relations disaster that was the Orioles’ general manager search over the last few weeks.The new vice president of baseball operations — a Massachusetts native — recalled his days of imitating Brooks Robinson and the 1966 Orioles in his backyard as a child. In fact, the Hall of Fame third baseman was the first major league player Duquette met many years ago during a trip to Fenway Park.In laying out his vision for returning the Orioles to the glory days, he referenced the philosophy of Harry Dalton, who served as general manager during Baltimore’s most prosperous time from 1966 through 1971.“Aggressive scouting will build you a winning ball club; aggressive international scouting, I believe, will build you a championship ball club. You weave that in with a sound player development operation.”It sounded heartwarming — even a little romantic — before the familiar warning signals that we’ve heard time and time again from others who’ve tried and failed in turning around an organization stuck in baseball purgatory for the last 14 years.Duquette stopped short of repeating the infamous “grow the arms, buy the bats” mantra of former front office head Andy MacPhail, but the former Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox general manager made it clear the development of pitching would remain the organization’s top priority. It’s a fair and prudent strategy, but much like his predecessor, Duquette couldn’t resist referencing the “behemoths” of the American League East in what’s become a tired excuse for those wanting reasons to believe in the Orioles again.Denouncing the inflated payrolls of your divisional opponents might be tolerable if you were being left at the altar every season with 85 to 90 wins, but it smells of excuse-making when you’re not even allowed in the church after failing to approach the 80-win mark in seven years.But that critique aside, Duquette’s stated commitment to improve scouting and player development is a much-needed strategy for an organization poor in both areas. Despite what many will tell you, finding and developing your own talent and spending money at the major league level do not have to be mutually exclusive. The latter, of course, is dependent on majority owner Peter Angelos, which won’t instill much faith in anyone with ties to the Orioles.“When you don’t have the resources that the top two clubs have, you have to work harder and you have to work smarter,” Duquette said. “You have to do a better job in scouting and you have to do a better job in player development. If you can build up the inventory of your farm system and you’ve got core players coming to your major league team, you’ve got something to talk about. The team that has the best farm system is the team that competes, year in and year out.”Working harder and smarter than the competition sounds great, but how much can the organization really improve with holdovers such as John and Dave Stockstill entrenched in the front office with no track record to support it?And that’s overlooking the fact that Duquette hasn’t worked in a major league front office in nearly a decade. Though claiming he’s maintained contacts throughout the game, how “wired in” will he be to the everyday happenings of baseball circa 2011?With the ever-increasing dependence on statistically-based talent evaluation — more commonly referred to as sabermetrics — how far has the Orioles’ head man fallen behind during his absence from Major League Baseball since 2002?“Your [former] manager here, Earl Weaver, knew the value of on-base percentage way ahead of the sabermetricians,” said Duquette, who added that Weaver’s book on baseball strategy will be required reading throughout the organization. “In fact, I would call that the groundwork for today’s stats. [Weaver] knew the value of scoring a run. He knew the value of how precious each out is, and he was able to impart that on his ball club.”For Duquette, there’s little time to get acclimated to his new surroundings as he must balance finding a scouting director and a minor league pitching instructor with a thin free-agent market that opened for business last week. It’s not exactly an easy task for a man who’s just now moving into his office at the Warehouse.Continue >>>last_img read more