NCAA REPORT

UA football shows graduation rate leap

2013-10-25T00:00:00Z UA football shows graduation rate leapBy Jon Gold Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Arizona football’s Graduation Success Rates took a big jump when the NCAA released its data Thursday morning.

The Wildcats experienced a 7 percent point rise to 60 percent in the 2006 cohort, which accounts for a four-year average of freshmen who started at Arizona from 2003 to 2006 and graduated within six years.

The increase was tied for third best in the Pac-12, which experienced a conference-wide increase as well.

“We’re making a lot of progress, and it’s critical,” Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said. “We have five goals and principles, and our No. 1 is to have our student-athletes graduate.”

While Arizona’s progress was impressive, the football program still ranks in the bottom third of the conference, ahead of just Washington State (57 percent), USC (53) and Cal (44) and trailing Stanford (93), UCLA (82, a 20 percentage point leap), Washington (74), Utah (73), Oregon (72), Colorado (70), Arizona State (67) and Oregon State (66).

Overall, the conference improved an average of 4.8 percentage points per school in football, showing that a recent jump in performance and exposure has not come at the expense of academics.

“We have great pride and respect for our rich history of academic excellence in the Pac-12 and are pleased with the improved numbers at many of our member institutions,” Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg said. “Our coaches, athletics directors and university administrators appropriately expect excellence in both athletics and academics, and deserve credit for this progress.”

The UA men’s basketball team ranked eighth in the conference with a 64 percent graduation rate.

The Wildcats are at 73 percent program-wide. Byrne said if you factor in nine student-athletes who graduated outside of the six-year window, the number jumps to 76 percent.

That marks a 5-point increase since the 2011 report, 6 points since 2010 and 12 points since 2009.

“This is absolutely one of the very important measuring sticks to us as a department,” said Byrne, who added that the school is looking for coaches who prioritize academics. “We need somebody who cares about student-athletes in three phases — academically, athletically and socially.”

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