Academic emphasis highlights UT sports programs
Oct. 27, 2010
The priority for University of Texas Athletics coaches and administrators is to mold and nurture young people, both athletically and academically. Success in the classroom is one of the best ways to measure UT's ability to do that.
Last year, 90 percent of UT student-athletes who exhausted their athletic eligibility graduated with a degree from The University of Texas. And this is a consistent trend -- 87 percent of UT student-athletes who play out their eligibility have graduated since 1993.
In Spring 2010, UT's 20 sports programs combined for a 3.02 GPA.
"We're in a better place today academically than at any other time since I've been here," said UT Men's Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds. "I'm proud of our student-athletes and the way they consistently perform. We really consider them to have two full-time jobs -- as students and as athletes -- and they do very well at both pursuits."
The NCAA also calculates academic success in three ways -- the Federal Graduation Rate (FGR), the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and the Academic Progress Rate (APR).
The FGR provides information about two groups at The University of Texas: 1) all undergraduate students at UT who were enrolled in a full-time degree program and 2) student-athletes who were awarded financial aid from UT at any time during their entering year. The federal rate is not as accurate as the GSR, but it is the only rate to compare student-athletes to the general student body.
This year's graduation rate report focuses on a six-year cohort of individuals who enrolled in Fall 2003 and graduated by Summer 2009.
"Our goal is to graduate our student-athletes, regardless of when that is," UT Women's Athletics Director Chris Plonsky said.
Graduation rates, however, can be affected by a number of variables. If a graduation rate is low, it is very possible that an individual graduated but was not credited in the six-year report.
For instance, Men's Basketball's Ian Mooney graduated in August before his senior season with the Longhorns, and was enrolled in graduate courses as he exhausted his eligibility in 2007-08. However, Mooney was not factored into UT's graduation rate because he transferred to Texas after two seasons at St. Louis University and was not a member of the entering cohort.
The NCAA introduced the GSR to reflect these mobility variables. For instance, the GSR includes student-athletes who transfer into a college or university. The GSR also excludes student-athletes who leave before graduation, so long as they would have been academically eligible to compete had they remained.
"It's difficult to be a student at The University of Texas. The standards are very high, and that's no different for our student-athletes," Dodds said. "Some of our student-athletes also have the challenge, or opportunity, to turn pro in their sports early before graduation. The good news about that is that they leave here in good academic standing, and stay committed to working toward their degree requirements. We want all of them to return to get their degrees, even if it's outside of that six-year block. D.J. Augustin is a good example of this."
Augustin was an All-American point guard for the Men's Basketball team from 2006-08, and as a sophomore ushered the Longhorns to the Elite Eight round in the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. Augustin was also named a first-team Academic All-American that season, before choosing to enter the NBA Draft, where he was selected by Charlotte as the ninth overall pick. He still returns to campus to work toward his degree, but will likely not graduate within the six-year window.
In the case of many UT student-athletes, considered among the world's best in their field of competition, early professional opportunities prolong their college term before graduation. Baseball's Drew Stubbs and Kyle McCulloch, Football's Earl Thomas and Vince Young, Women's Track standouts Sanya Richards and Marshevet Hooker and Volleyball's Destinee Hooker all departed in good academic standing to pursue once-in-a-lifetime professional careers.
The APR accounts for eligibility, retention and graduation in its calculation, and provides a measure of each team's academic progress. When the multi-year APR was released in June, UT surpassed the required NCAA standard in all sports, and the Baseball, Men's Basketball and Women's Golf programs received public recognition awards for their latest APR, which ranked in the top 10 percent of their sport.
Eighteen of UT's 20 sports posted a multi-year APR higher than the national average in their sport.
"The APR is the most timely and accurate indicator of what is happening today throughout our program," Dodds said. "We also see the APR as a more accurate measurement for sports that traditionally have a larger number of student-athletes leaving early for professional opportunities -- like baseball and basketball."
The NCAA imposes a ban on championships participation and loss of scholarships for failing to meet APR benchmarks. No UT program has ever incurred such a penalty.
"As shown by our APRs, GPAs and grad rates, Texas student-athletes are dedicated, and aim for high academic achievement," Plonsky said. "They prioritize their education along with their sports and personal development."