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The Stupidity of the "Graduation" Rate

I've had enough. This story has been beaten to death and seeing it rise up again today sent me over the top. So I'm openly challenging Education Sec. Duncan's claim that a poor "graduation" rate should result in a ban from post-season play.

Not to sound cruel or mean, Sec. Duncan and the national media (including the Washington Post) need to do a little research before they a). bashes a school's "graduation" rate and b). proposes banning teams from post-season play based on this flawed rate and on the decision of individuals to not finish their education within 6 years.

First off, Sec. Duncan, you clearly don't know all of the factors that go into the formula that determines the graduation rate of which we're speaking. For example, that rate includes players that transfer out of your school. Using the University of Maryland as an example, during the time period in question, 3 player transferred out of Maryland. Those 3 players show up as players who didn't graduate for Maryland, thus counting against their graduation rate. That makes sense...

Second, why does it matter if they graduate? Is that really the school's fault? That's the individual person's decision. Sec. Duncan's claim is that a school should be held out of post-season play because of a student's decision to not graduate? I think we need to make something very clear here. There is a BIG difference between not graduating and failing out or performing poorly in the classroom. Most of these schools, especially Maryland, have a standard that an athlete must maintain a certain GPA to remain eligible to play their particular sport. If they don't they are suspended. But leaving early for the pros or not graduating doesn't mean these kids were skipping class and not performing well in the class room. There is a big difference there folks.  If players are skipping classes or the school is passing them even if they're failing, fine, I understand punishing that school. But with Maryland, that is by far and away not the case. Maryland had a player in 2004 who didn't maintain his academics in the classroom. What happened to him? Chris McCray was suspended for the rest of the season and his team missed the tournament that year, likely as a result. So isn't that enough of a punishment?

And how is a school supposed to "make" a student graduate? Again, we're talking about these athletes willingly, at least in Maryland's case, not graduating. These aren't kids failing out of school. How can you force these students to earn their degree? How does any school get around that? The school can say if you don't graduate in 6 years or you leave early, then you have to pay back your scholarship, but that does nothing for this horribly calculated graduation rate and it doesn't really tie the student's hand in terms of forcing them to earn their degree. If you don't earn your degree, that's your prerogative. There are plenty of students who enter college and never walk across the stage at graduation. I'm not saying I agree with not getting your degree,but I am saying you should be forced into it.

Additionally, these stats are seven years old. Maryland will graduate all three of their seniors this year (+ Burney, who is graduating a year early). You're telling me they should have been held out of postseason play this year and because individuals 7-11 years ago decided to not finish their education? That seems fair. And that right there further illustrates the ignorance that Sec. Duncan possess when it comes to this topic.

So just because this "graduation" rate says Maryland only "graduated 8% of their basketball players doesn't indicate poor performance in the classroom or that these players don't work hard when it comes to academics. This "graduation" rate doesn't mean that players weren't also being students. It stupidly counts transfer students against the school's rate. And it shouldn't carry any weight on a school's eligibility status for post-season play.  If you want a school to show academic success in the classroom in order to be eligible for post-season play, why not use the GPA of the players to determine their team's post-season eligibility? The team's net GPA is less then 2.5, you're not allowed to participate in the post season. That stat is a real-time stat, forces the school to make sure their students do well, and prevents a student's decision to stay or drop out of school from affecting others on the team now and in the future. But then again, Maryland already has a system like that in place. Just ask Chris McCray.