For the third straight year, UA athletes have the worst graduation rates in the Pac-10.
Sixty-three percent of UA scholarship athletes who enrolled for the 2000-01 school year graduated within six years, according to the NCAA Graduation Success Rate report released Tuesday.
The UA's mark is 2 percentage points lower than last year's total, but continues a dubious losing streak. Since the NCAA instituted GSR scoring three years ago, the UA has finished last in the conference every time.
An Oct. 3 GSR report found that, nationwide, 77 percent of Division I scholarship athletes graduated within six years — 14 percentage points higher than the UA's score.
That report also listed graduation rates by sport; the UA football and men's basketball teams had the worst graduation rates in the conference.
While the GSR does not come with punishments, the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate — released every May — does. Senior associate athletic director Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose said she expects the school to lose scholarships in May, but not as many as the four the football team lost six months ago. The school currently is appealing that judgment with the NCAA, but not all the appeals are football-related, she said.
"We're going to be better than we have been in the past, but not where we want to be," she said.
Tuesday's report listed each Division I school's federal graduation rate, which, unlike the GSR figure, does not factor in transfer students. The federal rate, used by the U.S. Department of Education, compares student-athletes to the general student body.
Using that formula, the UA graduated only 47 percent of its scholarship athletes who enrolled in the 2000-01 school year. Fifty-seven percent of the general student population that enrolled graduated.
The four-class rolling average — for student-athletes enrolled from 1997-2000 — is slightly better at 53 percent. For only the third time in 12 years, the four-class average for athletes is lower than that of the student body, LaRose said.
"Even though our graduation rates appear lower, it doesn't mean that 47 percent failed academically," LaRose said. "Forty-seven percent did not graduate from the University of Arizona."
LaRose said that, for the students measured Tuesday, 107 UA athletes transferred while in good standing. Twenty did not.
LaRose said, again, that she places more emphasis on how athletes fare against their own student population than other schools in the conference.
"We want to certainly measure up to our peers, obviously," she said. "But we think the true measurement is against our own student body. The NCAA was formed to produce rules to provide a fair playing field. Athletically, we are. Academically, we're not.
"There are different admission standards for schools. There are different philosophies. That said, we certainly know what position we're in."
That position is not a good one — although LaRose said "we absolutely do see a tide turning" because of the department's changes in tutoring.
Tuesday's report also examined athletes sorted by race and gender, using the federal rate to compare athletes to students. It found that 53 percent of black athletes who enrolled in the 2000-01 school year graduated within six years, 7 percentage points higher than the black student population. Forty-nine percent of male black athletes graduate within six years, as opposed to 39 percent of the student population.
Sixty-seven percent of white student-athletes graduate, compared to 64 percent of the white student population. However, white male athletes graduate at a lower rate than their student-body counterparts, the only instance in any racial and gender subgroup.
At the UA, 46 percent of black athletes enrolled in the 2000-01 school year graduated, compared to 47 percent of the student body. The number is identical for white athletes — 46 percent — but 59 percent of the white student body graduated.
LaRose said challenges arise not because of race, but because of the high school an athlete attended.
"Primarily, rather than different racial groups, it's the school system where some of our students are coming from," she said. "They're underprepared. It doesn't mean they can't perform or they can't succeed."
• The UA has the worst Graduation Success Rate in the Pac-10, according to an NCAA report released Tuesday. Unlike the federal rate used to measure the general student population, the GSR takes transfers into account. The UA's score of 63 is 2 percentage points below last year's total.
Oregon State: 75
Washington State: 72
Arizona State: 68
Athletes vs. students
• For the third time in 12 years, the graduation rate of UA athletes has fallen behind its general student population.
The statistics below use the federal graduation rate statistics, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. Unlike the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate report, the federal rate does not take into account transferring students. The numbers below measure graduation rate over a four-year enrollment period; in this year's case, it is from 1997 to 2000.
Year Student Student-
1996 50 51
1997 50 53
1998 51 55
1999 51 58
2000 52 58
2001 53 55
2002 54 53
2003 54 53
2004 55 56
2005 55 58
2006 56 57
2007 57 53
Source: UA athletic department