BYU men’s basketball may have an impressive 71 percent free throw percentage, but even more impressive, they have 100 percent graduation success rate.
BYU ranks 223rd out of 339 schools in the nation in student athlete graduation rate according to the NCAA’s 2011 Graduation Rates Report. Men’s basketball and women’s tennis lead the student athletes at BYU with 100 percent graduation success rate. The sports with the lowest graduation rate are gymnastics (67 percent), men’s golf (60 percent) and football (57 percent).
Chad Gwilliam, BYU assistant athletic director for compliance, cautioned that the numbers should only be used for general trends.
“One of the things to keep in mind is that the numbers can fluctuate over a four-year period,” Gwilliam said.
The sizes of teams can affect the numbers dramatically. One out of 10 student-athletes not graduating on a golf team, hurts the graduation percentage a lot more than one out of a hundred student-athletes on a football team not graduating.
Gwilliam said returned missionaries who don’t graduate within the NCAA’s six-year window, are taken out of the equation.
“We want to get these kids through graduation because we recognize the importance of it,” Gwilliam said.
“We’re lucky that basketball historically has had good rates,” Gwilliam said, “and they do a good job working on their graduation rates.”
The coaches support
BYU men’s basketball is in the top 4 percent of Division I schools for graduation rates. Mark Pope, an assistant coach for the basketball team, attributed the high graduation rate to the luck of the draw and said the rates among teams would probably be more even over a longer period of time.
“We’ve had a string of guys that have taken their schooling seriously,” Pope said.
Besides happenstance, he gave a lot of credit to Dave Rose, head coach of the team.
“Coach [Rose] makes it a point of emphasis,” Pope said.
Anson Winder, a freshman studying public health, also pointed to the coaches as the source of success.
“Coach pushes us to leave with a degree,” Winder said.
Trevor Wilson, director of the Student Athlete Academic Center, said the coaches are a big part of academic success for student-athletes.
“I think that the coaching staff has done a really good job of focusing on and re-evaluating the type of athlete they recruit here, but we’re not going to see the full benefit of that until further down the road,” Wilson said.
Taking on a tough university
Baseball, another sport with lower graduation rates, is in the bottom 24 percent of Division I schools.
David Parry, a pitcher on the baseball team, was told the graduation success rate for baseball is 63 percent.
“BYU must be pretty tough if people aren’t able to pass,” he said.
He said a handful of players are drafted to play professionally, but the main factors affecting the graduation rate are the size of the team and players not being able to handle the rigorous academics.
While coaches try tracking players academic lives, it is difficult because of the teams size.
A love for your sport
Gymnastics is another sport with a lower graduation rate. Sarah Yandow, a junior on the team from Orem, is studying psychology. She attributed the low graduation success rate to gymnasts getting married and moving to where their husbands are and to gymnasts just wanting to be coaches.
“Maybe girls get recruited and college isn’t that big of a priority,” Yandow said. “I know that we’re all really invested in gymnastics, but I know that school is important for most of us.”
A rigorous schedule
Academics seem to be important for the women’s golf team.
“I think we are pretty on time for graduation,” Maggie Yuan, a senior from Chengdu, China said. “Even though golf takes so much time.”
The golf team travels both seasons, which adds up to five out of eight months of athletes missing class.
“The coaches do their best to help us catch up,” Yuan said. “They give us Thursday for catch-up day after trips.”
The women outdo the men in every sport except basketball. However, the difference is minimal with track, cross country and swimming.
Sandy Thomas is the adviser for the men’s and women’s volleyball teams, the women’s soccer team, and men and women’s swimming/diving teams. She said each sport holds different personalities.
“Athletes in the individualized sports, where it’s a team sport but they’re not competing as a team, tend to do better because they have to be self-disciplined,” Thomas said. “They have to perform or they don’t succeed.”
According to Thomas, all coaches should have academics as a priority, but some coaches are more involved than others.
“The coach’s expectations for academics can play a big role,” Thomas said. “Especially with kids who aren’t motivated.”
The theme of the Student Athlete Academic Center is “winners graduate.” At the center, they make graduation plans, ensure that student athletes meet with their major adviser, and keep them on track.
“If they’re in compliance with NCAA rules, they’re going to graduate,” Thomas said
National Collegiate Athletic Association
The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s 2011 Graduation Rates Report released on Oct. 25 includes data for student athletes who entered school between 2001 and 2004. It includes the Graduation Success Rate and the Federal Graduation Rate. The rates are a comparison of the number of students who entered a school and the number of those who graduated within six years.
“The NCAA developed the Division I Graduation Success Rate in response to colleges and universities who wanted graduation data that more accurately reflect the mobility among all college students today,” Emily Potter, the NCAA assistant director of public and media relations said in an email.
The rate includes student athletes transferring into schools.
Universities don’t calculate student athletes that leave a university before graduation as long as the student had remained eligible to compete.
Also not counted are incoming transfer student athletes, but counts all outgoing transfer student athletes as not having graduated.